As the school year progresses with in person instruction in the shadow of more potential COVID measures, the Cherry Hill schools’ administration continued its “Road Forward” planning with contingencies across all grade levels should the district need to move back to hybrid or all- virtual learning.
During the board of education’s Oct. 26 public session, assistant superintendents Kwame Morton and Farrah Mahan laid out “Emergency Virtual or Remote Instruction” plans to the community for the first time.
“This was put together by the ‘Road Forward’ committee and ‘Road Forward’ elementary, middle, high and special-education subcommittees. It was truly a collaborative effort,” Morton noted.
There are three areas where the state Department of Education requires action: availability and access to internet and associated technology, meal access and availability, and setting the length of a virtual- or remote-instruction day.
“There’s a responsibility on the school district to make sure that those needs are met. We have taken adequate steps to meet those needs in the past,” Morton explained. “We’ll continue to do the same in the event we are required to shut down.”
During the 2019-’20 school year, when the pandemic first hit, the district provided Chromebooks or other laptops to all students for all-virtual learning. Morton said if a similar situation arose this year, students would contact their school’s principal to request the necessary technology.
Regarding meal distribution, Morton acknowledged the district will continue to provide meals every day, even in the event of full closure. In that instance, he added, meals would be available at specific locations throughout the district. In the event of closure of one or a few, but not all district schools, meals would continue to be distributed at a specific time from schools forced to close.
“We’re committed to exploring creative options so that access can take place,” Morton continued. “Students who are on out-of-district placements may retrieve meals from their schools as well.”
Mahan broke down, across multiple grade levels, the look of hybrid or virtual instruction. Students across all levels in the district, regardless of age or grade level, will participate in synchronous, live instruction on a daily basis with their teachers. For upper elementary and secondary students, there may be asynchronous projects that students would complete on their own.
“There was a significant amount of conversation regarding the length of the day, and how (we) would process feedback that we received from the original ‘Return to Learn’ plan and translate that into the ‘Road Forward’ plan in the event that we do have to go virtual or remote,” Mahan said.
In preschools, Mahan revealed, half-day morning students would have school from 9:15 to 11:30 a.m., the afternoon program would run from 1 to 3:30 p.m., then 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for the full-day program. For elementary students, school would begin at 9 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.
“I cannot emphasize enough that during the academic day, in the classroom, teachers are not standing in front of the class providing direct instruction for 6.5 hours,” Mahan said.
Per Morton, middle school would commence at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m., with a scheduled lunch break. In both high schools, class would start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. Included during those days would be breaks scheduled in the middle of the day to allow students to access support, have lunch and take screen-time breaks.
On extracurriculars, Morton said the district would follow guidance from different sources depending on the nature of the activity. For sports, that would be the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).
“A lot of what’s able to be scheduled will be dependent on what we’re able to do,” Morton offered. “We may not be able to bring kids back together. Again, we follow the guidance of the Department of Health, the NJ DOE (Department of Education) and those that dictate what we’re able to do.”
All of the proposed schedules at each educational level, as well as a complete breakdown of the board presentation, can be found on the district’s website: https://www.chclc.org.