By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – The Ventnor schools are currently surveying parents of second through fourth graders about their preferences regarding increasing the number of days for in-school instruction.
“It’s best for kids to be in school in person,” Superintendent Carmela Somershoe said.
The district is currently using a hybrid model of instruction, with students attending classes in school two days a week, and remote learning the rest of the week. Pre-kindergarten students have been attending classes in the school four full days a week since Jan. 25. Kindergarten and first grade will start four days on March 1.
However, administrators, teachers and the Board of Education feel the students need more hands-on support and they want to transition to in-person instruction at least four full days a week.
“If we are lucky, we’ll be at four days for the rest of the year, with Friday being virtual,” school board President Douglas Biagi said.
The district could look forward to full in-school instruction in September, he said.
“We are moving as fast as we can, taking everybody’s safety (into consideration), and guidelines set by the CDC and Atlantic County Board of Health,” Biagi said. “We can get through this year and hunker down and see what happens over summer.”
Biagi said the district is dealing weekly with some sort of student quarantine.
“It’s far from over, but I’m happy with the direction we are headed in,” he said.
The district is currently surveying families with students in grades two to four, to determine if they support more in-class instruction. The district hopes to phase-in in-person instruction across all grade levels by the end of March, Somershoe said.
“We need to make adjustments to change in-person instruction depending on how many students want to come back,” she said. “We may have to re-arrange furniture and class assignments, so we really want to hear from the parents.”
At the school board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 24, Ventnor Education Association President Gina Perkins said “high risk brings high rewards,” but teachers feel the district has been “prudent.”
“We are pleased with the direction the district is moving,” she said.
Somershoe said she is hoping students will be able to keep their teachers, depending on how many students need to be in the classroom while maintaining social distancing protocols. The district has plexiglass dividers on desks, and surfaces and public spaces cleaned often.
The tentative plan is to survey parents of middle school students next, with students returning by the end of March. Surveys are being sent via email.
“We encourage parents to check their email and respond to the survey,” Somershoe said.
If the district does not receive a response, it will call parents on the phone.
“Everything depends on the numbers and the status of the pandemic, but we think it’s doable,” she said.
Somershoe said some parents are excited to have their children return to classes in the building.
Currently, 33% of the district’s Elementary School students and 40% of Middle School students attend classes virtually, but the numbers are changing, she said.
Many of the district’s teachers have had their first or both doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, and others are working on getting appointments to be vaccinated.
“All the mitigation strategies are in place,” Somershoe said. “We want it to be safe for both our students and our staff.”
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