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Phase 2 Update, 10/19
Mark Schwarz
Monday, October 19, 2020

Dodgers,

I hope this message finds you healthy and well. I am writing today with another Phase II update so that you are all informed regarding our intentions to provide a maximum amount of in-person instruction to students while safeguarding the health of our school community. As you consider the dates and details provided, stay mindful that school operations under current conditions require flexibility and patience. Therefore, all timelines and dates must be considered tentative, as they are dependent on equipment, funding, staffing levels and public health conditions. 

Elementary Phase II remains on track for Monday, 10/26, with scheduling improvements in preparation. 

Our desk shields have now arrived and are currently being installed in K-5 classrooms. The shields are lightweight and sturdy, and will be affixed to the classroom desks at all elementary schools. These shields will be disinfected with electrostatic sprayers each evening after the students have left. Please note that this equipment will be in place because the district will not be able to maintain six feet of distance with the majority of our students attending school everyday. 

Student desks equipped with new desk shields at Torey J Sabatini School

In addition to being able to provide more in person instruction to our students, our administrative team has taken faculty feedback, survey data and parental input into consideration with respect to student schedules. Accordingly, the following improvements are being made to the elementary schedules:

  • Under Phase II, all learners, including those engaged in full-time remote learning, will participate in increased live instruction throughout the school day. 

  • Afternoon programming will now include additional structured live-instruction. 

  • Remote learners will receive enhanced support in the afternoons to ensure that they are progressing with the in-person learners.

Further details regarding educational improvements under Phase II at the elementary level will be provided by the principals later this week. 

The MJS transition to Phase II will occur on or before November 16.

The feedback from MJS students and parents indicates a strong desire to return to daily in-person instruction. While we endeavor to make this change as quickly as possible, the change to Phase II at MJS will require student schedules to change, including teacher assignment changes. While these preparations are well underway, the faculty and administration will need to carefully monitor the reassignment of students in Genesis, Google Classroom, and other technology platforms while preserving academic data. Provided that health conditions remain permissible, this change will occur by the start of the new marking period on November 16, or sooner.  

The MJS administration will provide families with greater clarity regarding this timeline by the end of this week. 

The MHS transition to Phase II is tentatively scheduled for November 16, however, the Phase II model at MHS may be different than in K-8.

We are currently engaging our faculty, school leadership and the Madison Department of Health regarding how Phase II should be structured at MHS. Based on current understandings of how the virus behaves in older students, concerns remain regarding having high school students attend school without six feet of distance. While we have not ruled out full-enrollment, we are also exploring the possibility of keeping our MHS students in a reduced-enrollment model while shifting to a full day schedule. We will be consulting student, staff and parent survey data, as well as academic indicators, such as report card grades and curriculum pacing, to assist us in applying Health Department guidance. As always, our goal is to identify a model of operation that best supports students while also protecting community health at MHS. More information will be provided by the high school administration as the November 16 date approaches. 

Under Phase II, the Fully Remote Option will remain in effect, however students will not have the option to choose hybrid participation. 

While we endeavor to provide maximum flexibility for families, our Phase II scheduling improvements necessitate most students attending school everyday. We will, however, always provide flexibility for students to attend school remotely when they are sick, isolating or quarantining. If you have specific concerns regarding your child’s ability to attend school either in-person or fully remotely, please contact Dr. Frank Santora at santoraf@madisonnjps.org to schedule a consultation. 

The district is employing technology solutions to improve live streaming quality. 

With some of our learners continuing to engage in classes remotely, we have been making investments in strategies to improve the sound quality within the classrooms. By relocating teacher workstations and piloting the use of bluetooth speakerphone units, we have seen dramatic improvements in the learning experience. We hope to expand these solutions to all classrooms that need them in the coming weeks. 

As we work together to ensure educational quality for our students, it is critically important to continue to exercise safety.  

The rates of cases in New Jersey are rising and the NJ Department of Health guidance indicates that Morris county is now at a “Moderate” risk level. Should that level increase to “High Risk” or “Very High Risk,” the Madison Health Department may recommend that we temporarily revert our operations to Phase I or Remote Instruction to ensure the safety and welfare of our staff and students. Accordingly, all parents, students and staff must prioritize safe behaviors at all times, avoiding unnecessary risks. That said, so long as public health can be maintained, our Phase III model of full enrollment with full day instruction will remain our ultimate goal. 

In the coming weeks, please continue to monitor school communications which will provide ongoing guidance and instructions for students and parents. To the extent possible, please hold your questions as we are all experiencing a very high volume of emails. As always, when you communicate, please maintain a concise and respectful tone so that our staff can efficiently support you. 

We look forward to seeing more of your students in person very soon. Stay safe and stay Madison Strong.