Paterson schools approved a plan Wednesday night to revise the district's restart plan from a hybrid model to a solely virtual model until November 1, at which point officials will assess whether a hybrid model can be implemented based on local conditions at the time.
The school district initially submitted a school reopening plan, as required by the state Department of Education, calling for a hybrid return to school for students to an educational setting for the 2020-2021 school year.
However, because of concerns regarding an increase in positive cases, the Paterson Board of Education submitting the revised plan for its more than 29,000 students and 47 school sites.
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Officials cited a rising number of coronavirus cases due to in-person gatherings and failure to wear protective masks, which prompted Governor Phil Murphy to sound the alarm for residents to adhere to safety guidelines.
Other factors they mentioned include that Paterson students and staff have tested positive, many teachers do not feel safe providing in-person instruction, many students are complaining about using masks and wearing them, and many students with special needs are challenged and unable to wear masks for health reasons.
The board of education laid out the following measures to be taken in the future:
1. The district will on October 15, assess local conditions such as positive cases, transmission rates, staff availability, to determine if school can reopen November 1.
2. No school opens unless all protective gear is in place and available for each staff member and student. That includes hand sanitizer and partitions for student and staff desks.
3. Determine re-opening capability based on the number of available teaching and administrative staff.
4. Ensure that all schools have capability to identify an isolation area.
5. Ensure that all schools have at least one full time nurse. Larger facilities (high school complexes), may require more than one.
6. Ensure that school HVAC systems are functioning in each school building prior to reopening.
7. Ensure adequate number of custodial staff is in place in each building to carry out the responsibilities identified in the district re-opening plan.
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Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Murphy changed the directive for the upcoming year. Previously, schools were required to have plans for both in-person and remote learning. But after several districts reported a severe teachers shortage, Murphy amended the plan to allow for fully remote learning if schools felt they could not reopen safely.
The Plainfield and New Brunswick school districts also announced they would begin the year fully remote, joining Jersey City, Bayonne and Elizabeth.
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