There are 584 operating school districts in New Jersey and there are 16 non-operating districts, as of the 2018-19 school year. Each school district is trying to come up with a plan to start school (or not start school) in September.

The state can give guidance and set parameters, or it can order them to remained closed. Many parents, teachers and students are hopeful for some sort of normalcy or at least function for the coming school year. The New Jersey Education Association, the state's teacher's union, will be calling the shots ultimately. It paid for most of the elected officials in office in this state, and we pay the NJEA members' salaries through our property taxes. Now with that little NJ civics lesson out of the way, what will our schools be doing this fall?

Well, it's up to each individual school district, if the NJEA local agrees to it. That's 584 different but perhaps similar plans! The term clusterf%$@ doesn't even begin to describe what to expect. I've heard from some teacher friends that in one Central Jersey district, 65% of the parents don't want school to resume with kids in the classroom. That's not to mention what the teachers in that district might want. We can debate the wisdom or foolishness of keeping schools closed, but we'll save that for another time.

Many parents are desperate to figure out what will work for them and their children. At least one passionate mom in Toms River has a plan. Of course all of the highly credentialed academics in her district know better, but they should listen to and take a look at her plan and that of any other parents in the district who've thought this through as thoroughly as she has. After all they pay the salaries that make these districts function. She's submitted her plan to the superintendent and it's worth every parent giving it a look.

  • All middle school and high school students to stay home for virtual learning Monday through Friday. They can attend classes, just like in school and their teachers will teach each class via Zoom. Middle school students and high school students are able to stay home unsupervised, so their parents can work.
  • All elementary-age students to be organized by district and divided into the now-unused middle schools, high schools and elementary schools for in-school, all-day learning in socially-distanced smaller classes. Since this will require more teachers, substitute teachers can be utilized.
  • All children can stay within their group all day and eat lunch in their class.The cafeteria can have food-runners that can bring food trays by a catering hot cart to each class room, so children can have hot lunches (or choose to bring lunch from home).
  • Gym or recess can be outdoors on weather permitting days and socially distanced.
  • Keeping elementary-age children in school allows for an optimal learning environment and much-needed structure, and allows working parents to work.
  • Any parent not comfortable sending their elementary age child to school can choose to home school them or do virtual learning

I believe this model could be successful for Toms River as well as a guideline for the rest of New Jersey, during this pandemic. It's up to each town to make its own re-opening plan, so let's create a plan that is in the best interest of our young elementary-aged children and keep school as normal as possible during this challenging time.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. Any opinions expressed are Dennis' own.

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