Opening with Confidence - Presentation to the Board of Education, July 2020
Click on the photo link to watch a presentation by Superintendent Jeffrey Moore, Ed.D.
This section describes decision-making and other frameworks as it details our agenda for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year. Our planning flows through four principles in preparation for three separate scenarios. We work across multiple domains to fulfill those principles.
Table of Contents for This Section
The schools of Hunterdon County have examined guidance from dozens of states and countries to identify four reopening principles. Each district is developing strategies to fulfill each principle.
Our reopening principles, expressed as imperatives for all of our reopening work, are:
We are guided by public health partners to define “close contact” as exposure to another person inside of 6 feet of social distance for 10 minutes or longer. The reduction of crowds and close contact serves two main purposes. First, this reduction increases space for social distancing beyond 6 feet, therefore allowing students to remove masks. Second, this reduction serves to curtail the spread of any infection by limiting the number of people in contact with someone carrying the virus.
The reduction of mixing serves primarily to curtail the spread of any infection by limiting the number of people in contact with someone carrying the virus. Hunterdon Central, like many high schools, would have a very difficult time reducing mixing to a significant degree and still be able to offer a meaningful in-person educational experience.
We monitor to ensure that we have a strong understanding of the spread of the virus in our school and our community. We can increase monitoring by requiring daily statements of symptoms from staff and students/parents. Though there is currently debate on the efficacy of temperature checking, the practice could potentially offer some insight into the spread of illness. We stay abreast of community spread by receiving data on specific public health indicators from the Hunterdon County Department of Health and the county’s medical community.
Personal hygiene and disinfecting high touch surfaces remain the most effective ways to ensure that the virus is less likely to spread outside of close contact between individuals.
Under each principle, we can describe strategies across different levels of restriction. “Level 3” represents the most restrictive, while “Level 0” represents practices during normal, non-pandemic times. Note that complete closure, as we experienced in the Spring of 2020, would represent restriction beyond Level 3.
Reduce close contact and crowds. Key strategies are face covering and masking, reducing capacity by putting students and staff into shifts, adjusting our bell schedule to shrink or eliminate lunch crowding, and enforcing social distancing of 6 feet between individuals in classrooms, hallways, and all other areas.
Reduce mixing. Key strategies are reducing or eliminating movement of students on campus, creating one-way hallways and stairwells, and eliminating mixed gatherings outside of classes and transportation (e.g., lunch, extracurriculars, assemblies).
Monitor the prevalence of symptoms and spread in the school and community. Key strategies are temperature checking, symptom tracking and logging, and tracking of community public health data.
Reduce vectors and disinfect. Key strategies are personal hygiene, sterilization and sanitation, and elimination of unnecessary high-touch surfaces and shared equipment.
Throughout the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis, we will operate through one or more of three separate scenarios, with the selection of any scenario at any time determined by specific gatekeeping criteria in public health indicators, such as infection rate, positive test rate, and others.
The school is working with the Hunterdon County Department of Health to identify thresholds in those indicators. It is our hope that those thresholds will combine with our school’s conditions and capabilities to guide the selection of any scenario at any time.
Shifting conditions may require that the district move from one scenario to another, either more or less restrictive. This may happen as a result of a change in public health conditions in our community, a spike in positive cases among students and/or staff, a closure order from a governmental agency, or other situations. In all decisions, we will work to balance our goal of returning to campus with the need to keep everyone medically safe, and to contribute to county-wide public health imperatives.
This scenario allows for full attendance of staff and students, except where health considerations require any person to remain at home. In this scenario, we operate our full program on campus with adjustments to schedule and other practices to effect greater fulfillment of our principles. Significant changes to some practices are possible, in the most restrictive and intensive versions of this scenario. For example, the school could split lunch across multiple sessions to reduce crowding.
In this scenario, the restriction level of practices across strategies in our four reopening principles would likely average 1-2.
The second scenario could involve reducing the number of staff and/or students, requiring us to mix large-scale remote instruction with in-person instruction in order to offer our program. Different shifts of students may report each day for in-person instruction, for example, while those who do not report work on remote instruction.
We might also see a shortened in-person day. For example, classes might meet in the morning on an early dismissal schedule, with the afternoon reserved for remote instruction. In this example, lunch would not be served to most students.
Other significant adjustments would likely occur, such as reduction of movement, large changes to our bell schedule, and others.
In this scenario, the restriction level of practices across strategies in our four reopening principles would likely be greater than 2.
The school operates as it did in the Spring of 2020. That is, all facilities are closed except to essential operations as outlined in our emergency closure plan (e.g., meal preparation and distribution, support for remote instruction, etc.). Students and staff would work from a remote location.
In this scenario, most if not all strategies are operating at restriction levels beyond Level 3.
No matter which scenario we choose, individual staff and students with health and other considerations may need to remain on remote instruction. Hunterdon Central intends to offer flexibility where possible in offering remote instruction.
We must plan to implement strategies in fulfillment of our principles across multiple domains of work. These domains describe different functions, but also sit within a common need to address and achieve equity for all of our students.
Providing safe facilities and transportation for our students, staff, and community is always a priority. However, during a pandemic, planning in this area across our three scenarios in fulfillment of our principles involves:
The work described above goes beyond keeping things clean for the purposes of reducing potential spread. It also involves advising on and assisting with work practice controls--from helping to effect distancing through furniture arrangement, to assisting in the simplification of office and classroom surfaces to reduce shared equipment and high-touch surfaces. Staff members engaged in this domain are the stewards of a healthy and safe working and learning environment.
Our teachers must be ready to implement curricula in an environment that may shift from one operating scenario to another, perhaps multiple times across the school year. They must provide more individualization through the careful assessment of gaps in student learning, and the deliberate affordance of flexibility. Planning in this area across our three scenarios in fulfillment of our four principles involves:
The learning opportunities that our teachers offer must find the balance between flexibility and accountability, having evolved through lessons learned during our closure in the Spring of 2020.
Likewise, support for students across non-instructional operations must also focus on providing more individualization and flexibility, while contending with the demands of an extremely complex and volatile context. Planning in this area across our three scenarios in fulfillment of our four principles involves:
Planning in this area will, by necessity, interact deeply with planning in all of the other areas. While Facilities planning represents the environmental backdrop against which our work proceeds, Counseling/Operations represents the landscape of our rules, regulations, and support practices.
Wellness work toward our strategic planning priorities must continue, while it contends with the complicated results of interruption and volatility. Planning in this area across our three scenarios in fulfillment of our four principles involves:
Wellness work must continue to ensure that flexibility remains a focus of our approach to this calamity. We must also stay abreast of lessons learned throughout our profession on the most effective ways to ensure wellness of staff and students during times of crisis like these.
Equity does not represent a separate area of planning so much as a lens through which we must see all other planning. We must continue to commit to reducing barriers to opportunity for all of our students. Planning in this area across our three scenarios in fulfillment of our four principles involves:
Work in this area is not just a response to national conversations about justice, or to the realization of different experiences of the pandemic (and schooling during the pandemic). Even if such conditions and crises make this work more urgent or poignant, it is the necessary work that is already on our agenda through our strategic plan.
“Hybrid” originally was intended to describe a mix between in-person and remote instruction. However, in schools across New Jersey, hybrid models are also considering different cohorts or “shifts” of students each day. Both of these tools--cohorting of students and remote instruction--provide opportunities to mitigate risk in a pandemic environment. As risk increases across both tools, we can expect a higher degree of chronic staff and student absence due to health concerns and reservations, requiring more tools to provide remote working and learning opportunities.
We believe that we make a mistake if we view scheduling for September as a question with a single answer. As noted, we must be ready to pivot in response to changing public health situations. This does not only mean “ready to shut down” in the event of a worsening situation with the virus, but also means ultimately ready return to normal operations.
We can view our September opening as landing within one of several different requirements for restrictions as we fulfill our four reopening principles in response to public health conditions.
Our work with the New Jersey Department of Health is focusing primarily on new cases, rate of transmission, and metrics of hospital/public health capacity to determine public health risk.
In arranging cohorting and remote instruction in a hybrid model, we can imagine different options moving through different scenarios over time, assuming an improvement in the pandemic.
We can utilize different bell and class schedules in different models. One of the goals of any modified bell or class schedule is to be able to transition to any of the different hybrid models and ultimately to normal operations. Some scheduling options are summarized below.
Potential Option for One Third of Students:
Social distancing and other public health concerns require maximum restriction and reduction of crowding. Students would come to school in three shifts: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. We would be able to achieve 6 feet of distance in most classes. These students would travel through the A/B schedule, with days built in for deep facilities cleaning. This schedule maximizes remote instruction. An example two weeks appear below.
In an early dismissal, students on campus would follow a traditional early dismissal bell schedule and would spend the rest of the day at home completing remote instruction. If we are able to bring students in for the full day, we may follow a modified bell schedule to break unit lunch into several shifts in an effort to reduce crowding.
Potential Option for 50% of Students:
Social distancing and other public health concerns require medium restriction and reduction of crowding, but conditions allow us to have more students on campus. We would not be able to achieve 6 feet of distance in most classes, and would need to mitigate that risk through additional restrictions through our four reopening principles (one-way hallways and stairwells, early dismissal, etc.). Students would come to school in two shifts: Group 1 and Group 2. These students would travel through the A/B schedule, with days built in for deep facilities cleaning. This schedule still utilizes remote instruction, but balances it with in-person instruction. An example two weeks appear below.
In an early dismissal, students on campus would follow a traditional early dismissal bell schedule and would spend the rest of the day at home completing remote instruction. If we are able to bring students in for the full day, we would follow a modified bell schedule to break unit lunch into several shifts in an effort to reduce crowding.
Click on the photo link to watch a presentation by Superintendent Jeffrey Moore, Ed.D.