BRICK – Is there any chance that this school year might be cut short?
During the May 14 Board of Education meeting, President Stephanie Wohlrab said that a number of parents have been asking her this question.
“As we all know, this is a very difficult time for parents that are working and such,” she said. “Could you answer that question, and explain why that isn’t really an option at this time?” she asked Superintendent Dr. Thomas Farrell.
The superintendent explained that because the school buildings were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state is allowing the 180-day statutory requirement to be completed remotely.
“So for us, we still have to meet the days, we’re just not meeting them in person,” he said.
The current situation is not like when the district has snow days, which have to be made up in order to get the 180 days of school in person, Farrell said.
“The state allowed us, under the governor’s order and the Department of Education, to have our 180 days remotely,” he said. “So for us, the 180th day would be June 19.”
On Monday May 11, Governor Phil Murphy announced that schools would continue to be closed for in-person instruction until the end of the school year.
“Although this is disappointing, we’re prepared to continue with our virtual learning plan…until the end of the school year,” Dr. Farrell said.
School is not closed for the year, just the buildings are, he added.
More information is forthcoming as to end-of-the-year locker and desk clean-outs, and end-of-year celebrations, “so stay tuned for information from your building principals and on the website, and through our blackboard blast,” the superintendent said.
The administration understands the importance of celebrating the class of 2020 and shares in their disappointment at this time that end-of-year events cannot take place the way they were last year, he said.
“We have a myriad of celebrations planned, virtually, and some cool surprises, and we still are holding out hope for the possibility for an in-person, or albeit additional abbreviated in-person, conferring of diplomas while adhering to public officials’ protocols and the governor’s executive order regarding social-distancing and gatherings,” Farrell said.
He said he is still holding out hope for celebrating the graduating class in the traditional manner, he added.
Farrell said the district recently put out a competitive contract for a comprehensive feasibility study and strategic plan which would have four parts: a demographic study, facilities repurposing, possible redistricting, a future budget/cash flow analysis due to the effect from state aid funding cuts.
“This study will also encompass surveys and focus group meetings with all stakeholders,” he said. Data gathered should include current to potential enrollments, and student to staff ratios by building and department, Farrell said.
Regarding next year’s budget, the superintendent said the administration does not have a spending plan in place yet, but they are working under the auspice that the budget will be cut by some $5 million in state funding, which could be “catastrophic to staffing and programs.”
During public comment, resident Rich Boyle said there are a lot of rumors flying around regarding the 2020-2021 school year, such as schools merging and the two high schools merging.
“Don’t deal in rumors,” Farrell said. “If you really have a question or you hear something, feel free to email me directly.”
Wohlrab said the administration needs to gather more information before any decisions about the 2020-2021 school year are made.
“That’s why we want to get community involvement in this, because there are going to be options that we’re gonna have to look at and talk about,” she said. “It’s going to be affecting all of us, our children, our property values, everything in the next few years.”
In other district news, Business Administrator James Edwards said the Facilities Committee is still waiting for an updated appraisal of the site of the former Laurelton Elementary School, which is for sale.
“The auctioneer informed us that they don’t recommend holding a virtual auction at this time, that they feel they get better responses from people when they can actually do the auction in person,” he said.
The next Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday June 11 at 7 p.m.