October 8, 2020
Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Staff Members:
I am most grateful to all of the members of the Montville Township Public Schools community for all of your efforts in allowing us to successfully open all of our schools for in-person instruction. I recognize that significant effort has been exerted in preparing the buildings and in maintaining a healthy and safe environment for all of our students and staff members. I particularly am grateful to our teachers who are doing their best to provide instruction under very challenging circumstances. The dedication of our teachers and their commitment to the students is truly remarkable and inspiring.
Over the course of the past few weeks, people have inquired about the “next phase” of our reopening plan. Since the plan was developed this summer, I continue to respond that our plan is fluid and very much dependent on current circumstances. I am very pleased with what we have accomplished, particularly when I realize that there are a number of districts that have not yet started in-person instruction yet. In discussing next steps with the administrative team, we are in agreement that we want to proceed gradually to help ensure that we are able to continue to move forward, rather than finding ourselves needing to reverse course because we did too much too soon. There is some new concern as we have noted an uptick in COVID-19 case in Montville Township over the past week. The total cases as of October 7th was 10. This is the highest number recorded since July 5th. We now are moving into the normal cold and flu season, which poses additional concerns in this pandemic scenario.
After careful deliberation, we have determined that our next phase will be the expansion of our in-person enrollment at the start of the next marking period or trimester. Below you will find specific dates that are important if parents wish to change the status of their child from full-time remote to in-person instruction. We want to assimilate these new in-person students. We have determined that we do not want to expand our school days or to discontinue virtual Wednesdays at this time. Those options will certainly be re-evaluated again, but we do not anticipate a change in the immediate future.
The District Reopening Plan contains the following guidance on transitions between in-person and full-time remote learning:
We recognize that circumstances may change over the course of the academic year and parents may wish for their children to transition to in-person attendance at school. The district has determined that in order to maintain consistency of instruction, these changes can be made only at the start of a new marking period or trimester (elementary level). Notification of the desire to make such a change must be submitted to the building principal ten (10) school days prior to the start of the new marking period.
The start of the second marking period for the middle and high school students will be Monday, November 16th. This would mean that the deadline to notify the principal to request a change would be Thursday, October 29, 2020. The elementary schools operate on a trimester basis with the second trimester starting on December 10th. Notification to the elementary principals must take place by November 25, 2020. Notification must be in writing to the building principal.
The District Reopening Plan also addresses the topic of social distancing in the classrooms. The plan states:
The Montville Township Public Schools will create classroom situations which will allow our students to attend school with their classmates with students spaced three to six feet apart and wearing masks at all times in accordance with the Governor’s directive. Flexibility is provided in The Road Back for this approach: “Schools and districts must allow for social distancing within the classroom to the maximum extent practicable. This can be achieved by ensuring students are seated at least 6 feet apart and considering the flow of student traffic around the room. If schools are not able to maintain this physical distance, additional modifications should be in place. Modifications may include physical barriers, turning desks to face the same direction or having students sit on only one side of the table.”
As we are uncertain as to how many students may elect to return to in-person instruction, and the size of our classrooms is limited and varies from building to building, we may find that we will be unable to maintain 3 to 6 feet social distancing in all settings. We do have desk shields at the elementary level and can arrange seating to ensure that all students are facing the same direction. Unfortunately, since we do not know how many students might return to in-person learning, we are unable to provide information about specific classrooms at this time. It is possible that cohorts at the middle and high school might need to be revised or a student’s schedule might need to be changed in order to balance the numbers of students attending in-person.
At the elementary level, as indicated in a presentation on our reopening plan made at the August 18th Board of Education meeting, we reassigned certain staff members to provide a second adult in the classroom to help support teachers delivering instruction to both in-person and full-time remote students. As more students return to in-person learning, some of these staff members will need to revert to their original assigned positions, resulting in a situation where we cannot always provide two adults in the class. Due to budget constraints, we are unable to hire additional staff at this time. Our focus will be providing the additional adults in the classrooms at the lowest grades levels where students need the most support. We recognize that these circumstances are not ideal, but we are trying to do the best that we can within our available resources.
Any specific questions regarding your child’s school should be addressed to the building principal. Please note that.
René T. Rovtar, Ed.D.
Montville Township Superintendent of Schools