Newton and Sparta schools delay the start of in-person classes

Newton and Sparta. The school year at both schools will start with all-virtual instruction that will continue until Oct. 2 in Newton and Nov. 2 in Sparta. In Newton, the delay is being caused mainly by undelivered supplies needed to protect against the coronavirus, and in Sparta by a staffing shortfall.

Newton /
01 Sep 2020 | 05:31

Public schools in Newton and Sparta have delayed the start of in-person classes.

The school year at both schools will start with all-virtual instruction that will continue until Oct. 2 in Newton and Nov. 2 in Sparta. In Newton, the delay is being caused mainly by undelivered supplies, and in Sparta by a staffing shortfall.

“The reality as of today is that several of the health and safety standards outlined in the Plan will not be adequately addressed prior to the anticipated reopening of schools for in-person instruction,” said the Newton superintendent, Dr. G. Kennedy Greene, in an Aug. 28 statement on the school’s website. Newton updated its Restart and Recovery Plan on Aug. 25.

Greene said in-person instruction has been delayed because supplies needed to protect students and staff from the coronavirus have not yet been delivered. These supplies include plastic partitions for areas where it is difficult to remain six feet apart, face shields for staff members, electrostatic sprayers for applying disinfectant, and air purifiers for the 28 classrooms that do not have univents for air exchange. In addition, Greene said, additional custodial and maintenance workers may need to be hired to bring staffing up to full capacity.

Newton’s Restart and Recovery Plan calls for a customized hybrid program of in-person and remote teaching based on student needs. Sparta’s Return to School Roadmap Committee put together a plan of hybrid learning arranged by A/B weeks. Both districts will begin remote instruction on Sept. 8. All K-12 students in New Jersey have the option to choose all-virtual instruction this year.

The Sparta superintendent, Patrick McQueeney, said in an email that the district’s original plan, presented to the public at the July board of education meeting, is being delayed “due to inadequate staffing available.”

“We feel confident in our plans that were developed in July would allow us to return to in-person instruction in a healthy and safe manner,” McQueeney said. “However, we have received over 105 requests for leaves and accommodations to date which has impacted our ability to maintain appropriate staffing levels to ensure the safe supervision and social distancing of our students. We anticipate being able to return to in-person instruction November 2nd.”

Greene apologized to families for “the inconveniences this situation will cause,” and said the district “will continue to work every day to prepare our schools to resume in-person learning as soon as possible.”