By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – Parents, teachers and students are anxious to return to school in September, but it must be done safely, according to Superintendent Thomas Baruffi. On Wednesday, July 8, he informed the Board of Education that the district will form an advisory committee to develop a plan to safely reopen the schools in September.
Baruffi said the committee would consist of education “stakeholders,” including administrators, teachers, parents, city officials and school district physician Glenn Budnick, MD.
Board members Cathy Horn and Tracy Santoro, Margate Education Foundation President Christine Egan, parents Danielle Gomes and Anita Grimley, teachers Sherry Scott and Jessica Cuevas, Margate City Recreation Director Andrew Miles, Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck LaBarre, and Budnick will join school administrators and solicitor Eric Goldstein in developing a plan according to guidelines set forth in the NJ Department of Education’s recently released document, “The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education.” The document sets out minimum standards that must be met to safely allow children to return to the classroom.
“The return to school will pose challenges, but we are confident that New Jersey’s school districts can move forward in a way that best serves the needs of their district while also achieving a safe environment for students and staff,” Gov. Phil Murphy said when he announced schools would reopen in September.
He encouraged school districts to have their reopening plans finalized four weeks before the start of the 2020-2021 school year to allow parents ample time to plan for the reopening.
Baruffi said he has informed parents by letter about the district’s plans. Subcommittees will be set for Conditions of Learning, Policy and Funding, Continuity of Learning, Leadership and Planning.
In his letter to parents, Baruffi said while districts must follow the state’s guidelines, the plan would be developed to fit the district’s needs.
“This is important for several reasons, many of which are unique to our district. For example, our low to moderate class size will serve us well, as will our available facilities, including outdoor spaces. However, even with these advantages, we will need to be creative in our approach, allowing us to meet the guidelines in a responsible manner through a variety of means,” Baruffi wrote.
William H. Ross School Principal Audrey Becker, who will chair the Leadership and Planning Committee, said she has received telephone calls from non-resident property owners considering staying in Margate after the summer season and sending their children to the public schools.
“A side effect of this COVID situation is that some people are looking at our schools as a possible place to be,” she said.
Despite the pandemic, some children have returned to the schools for summer programs, administrators said.
Eugene A. Tighe Middle School Principal said students will be attending summer math enrichment starting Monday in small groups at different times.
The basic skills instruction and summer school programs are in session at Ross School, Becker said.
“They have been following all the teachers’ directions to stay safe,” she said. “It’s such a pleasure to have those little people back in our school.”
Summer programs are being viewed as a “trial” for when school resumes in fall, she said.
In other business, the board approved the retirements of Karen Petitt-Bohrer and George Townsend. Board President Cathy Horn said the district would recognize its retirees when the board returns to in-person meetings in the fall.
The board also approved summer curriculum work and club and activity stipends for certain staff members.
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