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Ewing Schools “Return to School Update”: Friday, July 24, 2020 10:00AM

Immediate Release

What will the school day look like for returning elementary and secondary students?

Special Education Update 

Since the New Jersey Department of Education issued its guidelines for the return of students to schools contained in their “Restart and Recovery Plan for Education” the Ewing Schools has released a series of updates detailing our plans.  This has included: 

A broad overview of our plan to reopen our schools, found here:

https://www.ewing.k12.nj.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=1&ModuleInstanceID=598&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=6603&PageID=1

An overview of our offered Virtual Learning Program, found here:

https://www.ewing.k12.nj.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=1&ModuleInstanceID=598&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=6604&PageID=1

A reminder that we are asking all families that choose our Virtual Learning Program to inform us before July 31st by notifying Theresa Hullings at thullings@ewingboe.org and providing us the names, schools and grades of your children.  We plan to end registration for the Virtual Learning Program on August 7th.

A summary of operations and facility logistics in our reopened schools, found here:

https://www.ewing.k12.nj.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=1&ModuleInstanceID=598&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=6607&PageID=1

The purpose of this update is to provide the school community an overview of what the school day and teaching and learning will look like for students in our reopened schools on September 8th.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Our focus in planning for the reopening of our elementary schools was shaped by the following:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics strong recommendation that primary school children should return to school this fall if public health conditions allow.
  • The results of our survey suggesting that primary school children struggled with online learning more than their older counterparts.  It also appears that families with young children participating in online learning struggled more with stress and demands.
  • The practical reality that having elementary-aged children at home presents a significant child care challenge for working families. 

As a result, our work in planning on reopening our elementary schools has emphasized the following:

    • Planning on having our students for the entire school day.
    • Targeted and well-supported virtual instruction.
    • Small group/socially-distanced teaching and learning.
    • Limited student interactions outside of that grouping. 

In order to do this safely, we have worked to revise the “elementary school playbook” in our design and implementation.  The focus will be on health and safety, and the educational comparison should be to seven-year old children sitting home all day looking at a screen, rather than the typical elementary school day we had prior to the public health closure.  An instructional pod refers to a small group of students, typically a cohort of 8-12 children, who will stay together throughout day and have limited interactions with other “pods” of students.  We worked to develop an educational approach in which a pod of students is in a classroom with a teacher for an Instructional Academy, focusing on core curricula, and then in an Enrichment Academy, where the pod of students engages in activities like physical education, art, music, social-emotional learning, targeted reading and math instruction, math games, independent reading and structured recess. 

Our school buildings are being reimagined to make better use of larger spaces and enhance flexibility; this includes the integration of outdoor learning spaces and the addition of tents for the early autumn months. 

We have developed an innovative elementary schedule for the 2020-2021 school year that supports both the academic and social emotional needs of our students during this public health crisis. The Ewing Public Schools elementary schools will be open during the “traditional” school hours of 9:00 am – 3:40 pm daily. This is where the thinking about a traditional school day ends. We have envisioned student learning all day but have divided the day into two academies: Academic and Enrichment/Social-Emotional Learning(SEL). As a district, our teaching pedagogy will be a blended learning approach where even in the physical space of school, instruction will be technology-infused. Adopting this approach will assist our students and staff if we need to transition to a virtual learning model as a response to the public health crisis.

During the Academic Academy, students will engage in reading, writing, math, science and/or social studies instruction. The instruction will include teacher leader experiences with technology resources and activities. Students will access their assigned device to use during the school day. Kindergarten and first grade students will use iPads and second through fifth grade students will use Chromebooks. The Enrichment Academy will engage students in art, music, physical education, health and technology/STEM. During the Enrichment Academy, pods may be combined on occasion, but this will take place in larger learning spaces, both inside and outside, where social distancing can be easily implemented.

As students will participate in daily enrichment blocks, other enrichment experiences may include math and reading support through games, social emotional learning lessons, ACE/AIM program and a recess or structured play opportunity. When possible, the Enrichment/SEL Academy will look to have outdoor learning experiences.

Elementary FAQs

What will my child’s day look like in the elementary schools?

While each elementary building will have the same start and end time, the academy time and lunch time will vary. Each morning, students will start their day in their assigned instructional or enrichment pods with a Morning Meeting activity. This is an opportunity for students and teachers to engage in greeting each other, sharing something about themselves, completing a short activity emphasizing a social skill and the teacher providing a short message about the goals for the day. Students will then begin the day with their Academic Academy or the Enrichment Academy instructor. All students will eat lunch with their pod in their morning location. After lunch students will move to the opposite academy (Academic Academy or the Enrichment Academy). Social distancing protocols will be followed all day with frequent opportunities for handwashing in between lunch and the academies.

What will the Elementary Music Program look like?

As we strive to emphasize a healthy and safe environment for the opening of school, instrumental music (band and orchestra) and chorus are not scheduled. If the public health crisis improves or we move to a fully virtual instruction delivery model, we will look to bring back our instrumental music lessons and group choral music program. However, all students will engage in enrichment classes focused on general and elementary music.

Typical Elementary Student School Day

9:00AM                                                    Arrival

9:00AM – 9:30AM                                 Morning Meeting

Morning                                                Academic Academy or the Enrichment Academy

Lunch

Afternoon                                             Academic Academy or the Enrichment Academy

3:40PM                                                 Dismissal 

The O’Brien Academy is planning on a full-day schedule for students, with social distancing practices and classroom accommodations put in place. 

SECONDARY LEVEL 

At the secondary level, we were faced with the challenge of meeting all the health standards and social distancing expectations contained in the state guidelines while also providing a meaningful and beneficial educational experience to our middle and high school students. 

Consequently, we are implementing a blended or hybrid model, combining traditional classroom-based with virtual teaching and learning. 

In order to keep our schools as safe and socially-distanced as possible, this model will feature the following: 

  • An early dismissal schedule for both Fisher Middle School and Ewing High School.
  • No lunches will be served at either school.
  • The model will feature a rotating A/B schedule, with half the students being in school one day, and participating in online learning the next. (the division will most likely be alphabetically by student last name)
  • Teachers will conduct their classes to the attending students, and then have online office hours in the afternoon to assist all students. 

This blended/hybrid learning model will provide student both an in-person learning experience with a more independent virtual learning experience. This approach will allow us to significantly reduce class size and provide a safer and healthier classroom experience. We will use the early dismissal schedule at Fisher Middle School (8:25AM - 12:35PM) and Ewing High School (7:40AM - 12:15PM). For the in-person learning day, students will attend four instructional blocks (approximately 64 minutes) with no lunches being served. 

Students will receive notification of either A Day or B Day assignment in late August.  We will strive to keep families on the same day throughout the secondary level.  We will communicate and publicize the student schedule clearly and consistently.  Following is a sample schedule: 

Tuesday, September 8th:            A student grouping attend school/B student grouping on virtual learning

Wednesday, September 9th:       B student grouping attend school/A student grouping on virtual learning

Thursday, September 10th:        A student grouping attend school/B student grouping on virtual learning

Friday, September 11th:             B student grouping attend school/A student grouping on virtual learning

Monday, September 14th            A student grouping attend school/B student grouping on virtual learning 

Teachers will have daily office hours to communicate with students on their virtual learning day. At Fisher Middle School the hours will be from 1:30PM – 3:05PM.  Ewing High School office hours are 1:10PM – 2:45PM. 

Please note that at Ewing High School, due to the unique nature of certification and course electives, some classes may have a mixed roster of virtual and hybrid students or perhaps may have to be delivered virtually even for those students who are in the building, due to certifications and content expertise for singleton and specialty courses and teachers who may be unable to be in the building. 

Secondary FAQs 

Will there be physical education? 

As a safety precaution, the lockers rooms are closed and students will not change for gym. As a result of this and the shortened day, we are leaning towards physical education being conducted virtually for our Fisher Middle School students in a pass/fail approach.  At Ewing High School, physical education will be held outside whenever possible and health classes will be conducted normally. All students will be instructed to dress appropriately (loose fitting close and safe footwear) when scheduled for physical education.  This will also be an opportunity for students to get outside, safely distance from their classmates, and have a mask break. 

What will the music program look like at FMS and EHS? 

The general music courses will continue in-person in a classroom following social distancing protocols.  There is nothing we would like to see more then the return of musical performances to our stages, however, science tells us that these types of setting can be very dangerous during this COVID-19 pandemic.  Consequently, rehearsals for band, orchestra and chorus will not meet in-person. However, on the virtual learning day, we will look to schedule small groups or ensemble virtual lessons weekly. 

SPECIAL EDUCATION UPDATE 

The Ewing Public Schools Special Education Department has been working hard to meet every child’s needs during this unprecedented public health crisis. As you know, the Ewing Schools is striving to develop a plan to open schools and educate students with special needs safely and efficiently. With that in mind, plans are being made to provide an educational platform that addresses each student's needs identified in their IEP. The current programming goal is full-day, in-person instruction of education and related services providing equal access for students with disabilities in our self-contained programs. Once the plan is complete, your child’s case manager will be contacting you to discuss their individual plan and answer any questions. 

For the past fifteen years, The Ewing Schools has offered an integrated preschool program for children between the ages 3-5 old residing in our community.  We pride ourselves in our ability to provide learning opportunities for the youngest members of our community and to help prepare them for their future educational endeavors in our school system.  However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strict social distancing guidelines, we have made the decision that we will not offer the preschool integrated tuition program during the 20-21 school year.  It is a decision that has not been made lightly.  We have considered many options and have decided that keeping classroom sizes as small as possible is the safest way to combat this disease.  We understand that this decision will be disappointing to families who had an interest in enrolling, but we wanted to provide notice at this time.  Preschoolers who have disabilities and are entitled to specially designed instruction and related services will continue to receive programming according to their Individualized Education Program.  It is the hope that this health crisis will be resolved shortly and we will be able to return all programs to full capacity.     If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Director of Special Services Harry Louth at hlouth@ewingboe.org. 

If you have any further questions, please contact Theresa Hullings at thullings@ewingboe.org.