What will you be doing over winter break? The New Providence Board of Education has recently taken a proactive step to revise the school calendar so everyone can enjoy the holiday season with friends and family.
The changes come as of October 15th, when an email communicated by Dr. Miceli, Superintendent of Schools, was sent out to all NPSD parents regarding the changes to be implemented. The email outlined how with the anticipation that families would be wanting to travel during the holiday season, careful consideration of future plans were being respectfully recognized. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, families across the country haven’t been able to visit relatives due to travel restrictions and caution regarding the health and safety of them and others. The guiding principles that the Board presented before the school year started were the primary references in making these changes as with the bevy of other changes that the Board has taken to keep the New Providence community safe in these unusual times. The main focus of this email is the trust between the community necessary in the progression of the District to eventually return to “normal.” A strong emphasis is placed on the need for a mutual level of respect between individual families and the District working together to continue a successful school year.
As outlined in the email:
“Beginning Monday December 21, 2020 through December 23, 2020, all four schools will be remote-only for students and teachers for half-day sessions only on these three days. December 18, 2020, will be our last in-person full-day session before the holiday break. All Schools will be closed for instruction from December 24, 2020 through January 3, 2021. On Monday January 4, 2021, all schools will reopen for students (A, B, C & D groups) and teachers to full-day sessions, but all four schools will be remote-only through Friday January 8, 2021. Beginning Monday January 11, 2021, in-person instruction will resume. Please note that in order to meet the 14-day quarantine, you must be back in New Jersey by 12/28/20 so that your children can report to school on 1/11/21.”
In an interview with Dr. Miceli, he reiterated the core beliefs and guiding principles that were continuously referred to while making this crucial decision. He recognized that it’s been a long period of time for our community to be quarantined since March. He expressed his gratitude to the community for having done a great job following the rules. At the same time, he knows that people are trying to figure out a plan to see family during a time that is long enough to follow the travel restrictions and health guidelines in place by New Jersey appropriately. He noted how the Teachers’ Convention and Thanksgiving is too short to visit family and quarantine. He said that when doing the math for the days and understanding that the future is uncertain, the District tried to determine the one opportunity over winter break to travel that would not interfere with the school year.
He said that “people could go away Friday and students could get on Zoom and no matter where they are while meeting with family and friends will have the ability to go to school virtually.” He said that for families traveling “as long as everyone gets back home by the 28th you will have an appropriate 14 days quarantine.” This allows for families to not have to take the risk of whether to travel or not because the school has dedicated a period of time to do that.
Dr. Miceli mentioned how the district has been working closely with the Westfield Health Department on all the cases that have been brought up over the last 2 months. There wasn’t a direct consultation with them in structuring the calendar but the understanding and framework recommended by the Department was used in making the key decisions.
He noted that he was “willing to take the challenge for the sacrifice of that week because if steps are not taken then the first week coming back will hold uncertainty, resulting in cases shutting down school for even longer.”
He stressed the importance of the mental health and social emotional aspect of gathering with family and coming back to school in a timely manner where the instruction would be able to continue without pause despite the fact that the teaching is taking place over Zoom.
He concluded by saying that the “goal from the very beginning from going back in July was to sustain open instruction.” Collectively as a District he wants to make sure that all four schools are open for as long as they can be, which is why the Board made this crucial decision.
Kevin Shan, a B student, feels that the school has made a good decision by proactively changing the schedule now: “I was surprised by the changes initially because the decision was made well before winter break will start but it is a proactive one that I feel is best for NP. I think the Board is looking after our best interests when making this decision because it allows the students to continue school while being able to visit our families over the break. We will face challenges on the week coming back from the break but the small sacrifice of in-person learning is far outweighed by the assurance that the health and safety of the community is guaranteed.”
Chris Huashuayo, a C student, feels that the school has made a good decision. He feels that not much will change as a result of the changes as he is already used to virtual school, and respects the school’s decision to trust families over break to visit their relatives: “The decisions made by the board early on help ensure my health and safety over winter break. Not much will change for me personally because I’m already online but I’m sure it will have a positive effect on other students. NP will be able to continue school before and after break while being able to visit their families knowing that the school trusts our decision-making.”