After eight weeks of Orange elementary school children being back in school full-time, the number of remote learners is dropping. At the end of September, 10.4% of students were learning remotely and at the end of October, 8.9% of students were remote.
“We want to continue this success because we believe teaching and learning happens best when students, specifically at the elementary level, attend school in person,” Superintendent Vince Scarpetti said at the Board of Education’s recent monthly meeting. “Many health officials have stated that the safest place for our students is in our schools,” he says.
The district’s focus on facilities continues to be of top priority, as is providing a safe environment for students and staff. “Recently you may have heard terms such as ‘COVID fatigue’ or ‘complacency’ through the recent rise in COVID cases. Even at our recent emergency management meeting, concerns of complacency were discussed and we have had to address many situations on a weekly basis,” he explains. “We all want things back to normal, but we can’t do it too quickly.”
Reminders about mitigating risk have been sent to families, urging them to practice the same safety measures at home that are practiced in school, especially when it comes to large gatherings. “We hope to continue the rest of the year in-person and we welcome our remote learners back at any time,” Scarpetti says. However, with a rising number of positive virus cases, the district is preparing for a shift to distance learning, should it be necessary.
The district, working with Orange Health Director Amir Mohammad, has developed a trial run during the week of Thanksgiving and possibly a few days into the next week, where there would be a combination of hybrid and remote learning. Parents will be notified in early November about any potential change.
“This would give our students the practice to bring their computers back and forth and it would give our teachers a trial run to teach hybrid and also remote,” Scarpetti says. “We don’t wait to do a fire drill until there’s a fire or a crisis drill until there’s a situation, we practice and prepare.”
He is also discussing with Mohammad his concerns about families congregating in large gatherings over the Thanksgiving weekend and the impact that may have on the school system should students return after Thanksgiving. “I don’t want to be complacent or comfortable,” Scarpetti says. “We want to address manners slowly, but steadily and that has had an impact on what the typical school day looks like this year.” This has forced everyone to be creative and flexible in their approach. For example, schools celebrated Halloween quite differently from the traditional celebratory parades and classroom parties with a reverse parade. Students lined up and parents drove by the students in their cars. “A very creative and a nice event for our students,” Scarpetti says.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent