The New Jersey School Boards Association on May 20 released a special report that recommends strategies for local school districts and the state and federal governments to follow when re-opening schools.
"Searching for a 'New Normal' in New Jersey's Public Schools: How the Coronavirus Is Changing Education in the Garden State" also provides information on students' mental health, academic and extracurricular programs, budgets, and preparations for the future. The report draws on the viewpoints of local school officials, research by experts in education, medicine and public health, and the experience of other nations in reopening schools, said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director.
The report recommends the following strategies:
● Provide school districts with accurate financial data reflecting the impact of the pandemic on New Jersey's economy, state aid to education, and school budgets.
● Engage in early, sustained communication with parents, students, and school district staff about the steps being taken to ensure a healthy and safe environment.
● Revise plans to ensure a smooth transition to full online instruction if schools are again closed for the sake of health and safety.
● Include a "menu of options" so that districts can select the strategies that would work best for their communities.
● Provide an adequate pool of educators by enabling teacher candidates to complete training, such as classroom observations, which was disrupted due to the health emergency.
Other recommendations address the mental health and emotional needs of students and staff; policy on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE); modification of the state's school district evaluation system, the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum, so that districts are not penalized for actions needed to address the pandemic; administration of tests to identify the need for remediation; and adequate funding to provide such programs.
The special report is available at njsba.org/new-normal2020.