Cranford school district releases survey results

CRANFORD, NJ — On July 23, Cranford Superintendent of Schools Scott Rubin sent an update to the community with the results of the recent survey sent out to gauge the community’s comfort level with school reopening in the fall. Rubin said the district would provide another update on its plans on or about July 31. In the meantime, community members are encouraged to continue providing feedback online here.

The district is currently considering a few plans for reopening. In Plan A, based on current state guidance requiring 6 feet of social distancing, school for preschoolers through fifth-graders will be open every day on a modified schedule that will roughly follow a single session day with no lunch or recess period. Middle School students will be split into two cohorts, with one group attending school in-person on Mondays and Wednesdays and alternating Fridays and another group attending school in-person on Tuesdays and Thursdays and alternating Fridays; each cohort will attend school on a modified schedule, which will roughly follow a single-session day. High school students will be split into three cohorts, with each group attending school in-person every third day, following a modified single-session–day schedule. Teachers at all grade levels will livestream what is taking place in the front of the classroom so that students who are not scheduled to be in-person or who remain on virtual instruction can follow along with the class from home.

In Plan B, should the state amend its requirements and allow districts to use 3-foot social-distancing with face coverings, schools will be open to all students every day, on a modified schedule, which will roughly follow a single-session day, with no lunch or recess period. Teachers will livestream what is taking place in the front of the room so that students who remain on virtual instruction can follow along with the class from home.

For both plans, parents may opt to keep their children learning remotely, and all faculty and students entering the buildings will have their temperatures checked and will be required to wear face masks.

Special education programming will be based on each child’s IEP and may entail supplemental and extended programming. Time will be provided during the day to allow for handwashing, mask “breaks,” snacks and physical movement. Free and reduced-price take-home lunches will be provided for those who qualify.

According to the district, the earlier dismissal of students will provide additional time to sanitize the school buildings on a daily basis. The district plans to adjust the daily opening and dismissal of schools so that high school and middle school students will be released prior to the elementary school students, so that they may provide additional assistance to families.

In Plan C, should the state require districts to close all in-person instruction, the district will activate an Enhanced Emergency Education Distance Learning Plan. Teachers will provide a single-session virtual day, roughly following each student’s typical schedule.

The district is asking all parents and guardians to begin “mask-training” their children, so they will be more comfortable wearing face masks for a long period of time at school.

According to the district, 2,689 participants completed the survey regarding the plans to reopen. Of those surveyed:

• 84.27 percent plan on sending their child to school for in-person instruction as outlined in Plan A, while 13.76 percent plan on having their child participate 100-percent virtually if Plan A is implemented.

• 79.29 percent plan on sending their child to school for in-person instruction as outlined in Plan B, while 18.82 percent plan on having their child participate 100-percent virtually if Plan B is implemented.

• 93.47 percent plan to send their child to school if all students were required to wear a face covering, regardless of social distancing. This number is based upon those who responded that they would send their child to school for in-person instruction as outlined in Plan A.

• 87.03 percent would permit their child to wear a face shield as an alternative face covering to be used only when students are socially distanced 6 feet or more while at their desks. This is based upon those who responded that they would send their child to school for in-person instruction as outlined in Plan A.

According to the district, through the feedback, there were many requests for all students to attend school every day. In particular, more in-person time was requested at the high school level and there were questions as to why each day could not be longer.

Factoring in the number of students who have opted for virtual instruction, the district believes it can modify the high school model so that high school students could attend school every other day, in alignment with the plan for the middle school.

The high school providing in-person instruction every other day may mitigate the question about elongating the single-session day, but here are some of the district’s reasons to dismiss students after a single session at the high school: Lunch will not be served, keeping students from gathering in large numbers without masks to eat; it would be a long, possibly hot, day wearing a face covering; high school students will be dismissed earlier than the elementary school students to be available to assist with childcare needs; during the afternoon hours, teachers will provide additional support virtually for all students, including those who remain on virtual instruction; and additional services, such as special education, interventions, enrichment and ESL may be provided in the afternoons as needed.

Many respondents asked if students would be required to wear face coverings. According to the district, the answer is “yes,” regardless of social distancing. The district will purchase face shields for each student should they choose to wear one instead of a mask, but these will be used only when the students are socially distanced 6 feet and remain sitting at their desk. The district will provide face-covering breaks throughout the day.

There were requests for a cohort model at the elementary school level, as well as questions about what those section sizes would be. A follow-up survey was sent to elementary school parents on July 21. According to the district, 27.57 percent of the 1,099 respondents stated that, “If a cohort model was available, they would prefer their child to attend every other day in-person and participate through livestreaming on the other day, resulting in smaller class sizes.” The district is currently exploring whether it is possible to accommodate this preference while still accommodating the majority of respondents who want their child to come to school every day.

There were questions about whether individuals could move from virtual to in-person and vice versa. The district would like to be flexible on this issue but also needs to plan in advance for scheduling purposes and to ensure it is abiding by social-distancing requirements. Therefore, after the plan is shared with the community on or about July 31, parents and guardians will have about a week to decide whether they would like their children to attend school in-person or virtually. Although parents can always change their mind to opt for virtual instruction, a requested move to in-person instruction will be honored and should be expected to be implemented on the following dates: Nov. 12, Jan. 27 and April 13. The district is also still awaiting further guidance from the state.

Some respondents wanted to know what differences would be implemented in virtual learning in the fall as opposed to this past spring. The district plans to provide an updated plan to the community on or about July 31. However, here are some enhancements that you can expect to see with regard to virtual instruction: It will take place within a 4-hour block of time; this does not mean your child will be watching the screen for four hours straight — rather, there will be a combination of whole group, small group and independent exercises, just like when your child is in school. Attendance will be mandatory, and video will have to be turned on. The teachers will use Google Classroom/Google Meet, ensuring consistent platform use throughout the district. The teachers will livestream the front of the classroom; no students will be seen — just the teacher and the actual instruction.

The district is currently working with the Cranford Health Department, which is leading the efforts in developing the protocols to be followed if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID.

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