By MADDY VITALE
In less than two weeks the Ocean City School district is opening its doors for the start of the 2020-21 school year.
And while the faculty, students and their families, will all navigate the new normal, Board of Education members said the district is ready during a remote meeting Wednesday.
The buildings have been vigorously cleaned, and the district will continue to meet all of the safety and health guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control they emphasized.
During the Aug. 5 meeting, the board voted to approve the school district’s Return to School Plan, which offers a blend of remote learning and in-person instruction, with a choice for all-virtual instruction as well.
Students have not had in-person instruction since the mid-March COVID-19 shutdown of schools and other public facilities throughout the state, as per Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order.
The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 8.
In the hybrid model, the students have been broken into two groups to ensure social distancing. They will attend school two days a week and learn remotely for three days. There is also the Virtual Academy for those who will not attend in-person instruction.
“We are ready to start the new school year and we are opening Sept. 8,” Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor noted, adding that Virtual Academy will also start on Sept. 8.
While some other schools in the region and state, have opted to start the year all-remote, the district was approved by the state Department of Education to continue on the track to offer the blend of in-person and remote learning.
Dr. Taylor and School Board President Joseph Clark have said, however, that the reopening plan is a fluid one. Should the number of COVID-19 cases rise in the state again, and the district has to close, it is fully prepared to teach all of the students through the Virtual Academy.
During the public portion of the meeting, one parent asked the board to consider an in-person freshman orientation. Currently, there is a video that the students and parents could watch.
“The school is safe and clean and ready to go, but it is also ready to hold a student orientation. Extraordinary times take extraordinary efforts,” he said. “The video is prepared through the eyes of someone who has been in the school, not someone who has not been in the school. Even though the video was a good attempt, it does not replace actual, onsite physical orientation.”
Clark expressed thanks to all of the people who made returning to school possible including those who maintain the buildings and added that the district is doing its best.
Since the shutdown, Ocean City school officials worked with stakeholders from various areas, students, faculty, and community members, to create the hybrid model for learning.
“The administration has been working diligently with the committees. They were a great group of people. They tried their best. We have been working in this district diligently to upgrade all of the facilities – the gas lines, HVAC system,” Clark noted. “We are able to do it. Wishing everybody the best and hopefully everything will stay on course and continue to move forward with the new normal.”
Board Vice President Jacqueline McCallister commended the administration and the committees and added, “I’m happy and excited for the new year and to have the kids back in school.”
For more information on Ocean City schools, visit www.oceancityschools.org.