By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – A parent meeting planned for Tuesday, Aug. 4 has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6 and will be held remotely. Although tropical storm Isaias barreled up the eastern seaboard resulting in tornado warnings for the area, the meeting was postponed for another reason – Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent executive order limiting attendance at indoor gatherings to 25% of capacity with a maximum limit of 25 people, down from 100 people previously, Superintendent Thomas Baruffi said Tuesday afternoon.
Baruffi said instructions on how to access the meeting will be posted on the margateschools.org website.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the district’s school reopening plan, which calls for half-day in-class instruction with an option for parents to have their children learn remotely, and answer any questions posed by parents.
Baruffi said he does not know if the governor’s order applies to classroom instruction.
“If it does, there’s no way we can have in-class instruction for six or eight kids,” he said.
Efforts are being made to clarify if the restriction applies to schools.
Although the Atlantic County Council of Education Associations sent a letter to New Jersey state elected officials strongly urging Atlantic County schools to open for remote learning only, Baruffi said a large majority of Margate teachers indicated they want to come back to teach in the classroom.
“As educators, we cannot support any semblance of a standard opening of schools, knowing that it will bring illness, death, and hardship to our communities,” wrote ACCEA President Barbara Rheault, who also chairs the NJEA Working Conditions Committee.
“If it’s unacceptable for adults to gather in large groups, why would our county be comfortable risking its children and adults who work in schools,” she said.
Remote learning would be best for students, educators and the community, and data should determine what is safest for the schools and their employees, she said.
Additionally, FEMA last week determined that Atlantic County is becoming a COVID-19 hotspot with the rate of transmission increasing to 1.41, up from .8 last month.
Only two Margate teachers have personal concerns about returning to the classroom, Baruffi said.
“If they don’t come back, we will request they be available to teach remotely,” he said.
The plan before the district, which was prepared in consultation with administrators, teachers, parents and local public officials, calls for children to be in school from 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. with all students and staff wearing masks and social distancing. No lunches would be served, but grab-and-go meals would be available.
The half-day schedule would allow the district to provide remote learning instruction in the afternoons, he said.
A copy of the plan is posted on the district’s website, margateschools.org. The plan must be approved by the Executive Atlantic County Superintendent of Schools and approved by the Board of Education before school resumes on Sept. 3 and is subject to change based on state guidance.
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