By MADDY VITALE
Before the school year even began amid the pandemic, Ocean City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor said there may be a need to shift from the hybrid learning model of in-person and virtual instruction to all remote teaching, should an uptick in COVID-19 cases arise.
On Friday, in a letter posted on the district’s website, www.oceancityschools.org, Dr. Taylor prepared parents for the possibility of going to all-remote instruction.
“Your understanding of our current need for hybrid learning has been critical in keeping our schools safe for students and adults alike,” Dr. Taylor wrote. “However, please know that our ultimate goal is to have all of our students be in school, every day.”
She then stated that the hard work of schools alone “is not sufficient in controlling the community spread of COVID-19.”
“Public health experts report moderate increases in positive cases across our state and region in recent weeks. The Cape May County Health Department has reported a significant local increase in October and our county has the second highest school-related transmissions in New Jersey,” her letter said.
While Cape May County has a “moderate risk” status for coronavirus cases, it also continues to warrant the need for remote learning and a blend of in-person and remote learning as well as all-virtual instruction.
Students in Sea Isle City attend the Ocean City primary, intermediate and high schools.
The Ocean City district closed on March 16 at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a day before Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to shut down schools statewide. The following day, Ocean City schools offered the hybrid learning model.
At the start of the new school year, Dr. Taylor and Board of Education members stated that they, along with teachers, were ready to welcome back the students but said that the situation would remain fluid.
The district has continued to adhere strictly to the county, state and CDC health and safety guidelines to lessen the spread of the virus by doing three things as follows:
- Implement social distance guidelines of 6 feet or more, wherever practicable.
- Wear properly fitted face coverings unless there is an exception.
- Engage in protocol and practice that promotes proper hand-washing hygiene.
But, despite the district doing all it can, if cases continue to rise in the area, the Cape May County Health Department is advising schools to add restrictions to the way school is being offered to the students, Dr. Taylor noted in Friday’s letter.
“These restrictions may include shifting to a distance learning instructional model for a period, such as 14 days,” she pointed out. “This 14-day period could affect single or multiple classrooms, grade levels, schools, programs, or any combination of those mentioned.”
Dr. Taylor stressed to parents that the possibility of a shift from the hybrid to all-virtual learning model could happen quickly, without advance notice.
“It is crucial as a parent or guardian you have a plan for childcare prepared in advance in anticipation of these scenarios,” she said.
Dr. Taylor has continued to emphasize the importance of some in-person instruction as being vital to learning.
“Families have the option to choose the fulltime virtual option (Ocean City Virtual Academy) for their child, but we strongly recommend that students attend OCSD with the reopening plan we have in place,” she said in July in another letter to district families about the plan in place.
She explained that the district has “worked very hard over the last several months to enable our schools to open for in-person instruction and extra-curricular activities.”
But the district needs the support of the entire community to slow the spread of the virus, she emphasized.
“As we all know, schools are vital in meeting the academic, social, emotional and physical well-being of students,” Dr. Taylor said. “While we also acknowledge the important role, schools serve for our broader community, safety must remain our number one priority. We must do everything we can to keep schools safe and open.”
To view Dr. Taylor’s letter in its entirety and for all other information regarding the school district, visit www.oceancityschools.org.