Eastern board discusses in-person learning, senior trip

Board also gets update on Eastern Cultural Responsiveness

The Eastern Camden County Regional School District Board of Education met for a virtual session Jan. 21, discussing issues that included in-person learning, updates to the senior class senior trip and the Eastern Cultural Responsiveness Repository.

Near the top of the meeting, Superintendent Robert Cloutier stated that over 70 percent of parents within the district have their children enrolled in 100 percent remote learning. Due to the high number of fully remote learners, the district issued a communication the day prior to the meeting notifying parents that the district is currently polling parents on the creation of a new contingency plan that would allow students attending school in person to be present for all non-synchronous school days, as long as safety and social distancing protocols remain intact.

Students currently attending in-person classes can only do so twice a week, due to the student population being split between two cohorts, with each cohort doing two in-person learning days and two remote- learning days.

“The latest update is that over 70 percent of our parents are choosing for their children to attend 100 percent remotely, and that is why yesterday, we sent out the communication to hopefully put in place another contingency plan for those students and parents who believe it would be beneficial to attend four days,” Cloutier explained. “We will consider every contingency that we can.”

According to a release on the district’s website, parents who don’t want to change their child’s current learning status are not required to take action at this time. Those who do want to change must do so by navigating the parent portal in PowerSchool.

Changes to a child’s status will lock parents into the selected choice from Feb. 1 to March 15, according to the district. Additional open- enrollment periods will be available later this school year for student  learning status, starting April 15 and May 15 as well.

According to the district, if requests during the open-enrollment period exceed the number of students that would prevent the district from following social distancing guidelines, then the two-day hybrid model will be reinstituted for all students for the remainder of the school year.

Also during the meeting, Assistant Affirmative Action Officer Robyn Clarke provided the board with an update regarding the district’s efforts to achieve some of its goals through the Eastern Cultural Responsiveness Initiative.

Clarke gave a presentation to the board in September regarding the creation of the initiative, and her Jan. 21 presentation detailed the progress made in creating a collection of resources and materials for use by Eastern students.

“This really is designed to be a living, educational resource,” Clarke offered. “So this is not supposed to be the end; it’s a beginning. The intent is to expand this over time to include all of the diverse groups who are represented by the Eastern student body.”

The initiative was created in response to the social unrest that engulfed the country last summer. Broken into four areas, the resource includes books, films, podcasts and teaching resources for students and staff.

According to Clarke, the resource will go live in the coming weeks and is expected to be utilized as a way to create dialogue between those who access the content. All resources included in the repository have been vetted by a teacher, staff member, alumnus or current student, according to Clarke.

During her presentation, Clarke said the district has attempted to create a vast education resource that interested students would be able to navigate on their own and that will help further worthwhile discussions with varying points of view. The district committed to identifying and creating its own resource, rather than relying on resources others may have assembled.

“We really tried to provide a really comprehensive resource that, for people that are interested in finding out more, can do so,” Clarke said. “When the protests occurred last spring, lots of school districts went and more or less put out a static list of books, while some kind of just lifted what another school district did. But (superintendent) Cloutier was very specific that he wanted the Eastern response to be something that was much more personal and meaningful.”

Cloutier provided updated information about Eastern’s senior trip. Due to Disney World’s decision not to host student groups in April or May at the Florida resort, the district worked with its travel agent to select the closest possible date for the trip, currently June 10.

Earlier in the week, the district sent out a communication about the option of receiving a full refund, and it was awaiting results from parents before deciding the fate of the senior trip.

Cloutier said current travel restrictions prohibit seniors who attend senior trips from attending graduation as currently described by the state. The district has yet to discuss moving its graduation date.

The board’s next virtual meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, starting at 7:30 p.m.