NB'S SAFE RETURN FOR THE 2021-2022 SCHOOL YEAR
August 19, 2021
Dear NB Families, Faculty, Students, and Staff:
With the summer winding down and the start of the school year quickly approaching, I wanted to touch base with NB’s families regarding three important areas of focus. First, I’ll discuss some of the more recent updates to NB’s Safe Return Plan for 2021-2022 school year. Next, I’ll share some updates on the High School construction project. Finally, I’ll share some general updates regarding our return to 100% in-person instruction in September. The summer of 2021 has been very productive. School faculty and administrators have been busy assessing and revising curriculum, monitoring the progress of high school facilities projects, and keeping track of all the developments with COVID-19
and the guidelines and regulations that come with opening schools during the pandemic. Fortunately or unfortunately, we all have experience with the challenges that come with COVID-19. The concepts of ‘contact tracing,’ ‘quarantine,’ and ‘pivot,’ have become common vocabulary. The NB Board of Education, its administration, faculty and staff are preparing for school to open full time in September and we have once again placed health and safety as the top priority.
Updates to NB’s Safe Return Plan (SRP):
On Monday evening, August 16th, the Board of Education reviewed the district's Safe Return Plan and approved the updates as presented. The plan was originally approved in June and most recently, there have been two important updates to the plan. The first update is with regards to the mandatory wearing of face masks. The second update is with regards to contact tracing and the need to quarantine.
Regarding face coverings, on August 6, 2021, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 251, which states that all students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks inside of school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year. The mandate went into effect on August 9, 2021. Exceptions to the mask requirement remain unchanged from the 2020-2021 school year, and the complete list of exceptions can be found on our web page under section A of our SRP.
The Board of Education respects and understands the varying wishes of all students, parents, and guardians. In fact, prior to the issuance of Executive Order 251, the District was prepared to implement a policy that allowed parents to make the choice regarding whether or not their child should wear a mask in school. However, Executive Order 251, requires all students, educators, staff, and visitors to wear face masks inside of school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
Regarding the change to the contact tracing and the quarantine guidelines, it is important to note that the guidelines for contact tracing and the definition of a ‘close contact’ have changed significantly. Here is the new guideline in place:
“Close Contact through Proximity and Duration of Exposure: Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet criteria for discontinuing home isolation.
Exception: In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time.
"This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.”
Under these revised guidelines, we believe that the need to quarantine students will be minimal as all students are required to wear masks with only the few exceptions previously mentioned such as when eating lunch or when outside. Please note that although the New Jersey Department of Health has not yet released its plan, I have been advised that the New Jersey Department’s plan will include these guidelines.
It is safe to say that we have all experienced significant changes to our lifestyles and behaviors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And just when we were enjoying the summer break and thinking that this pandemic may be ‘behind us,” the recent uptick in active cases in the region has many concerned. Please know that NB has the health and safety of our faculty and students the top priority. Moreover, we are prepared to adjust our protocols when guidelines are revised.
Please take a moment to visit the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub by clicking on the link below. This is a good resource for up-to-date information.
Update on the High School Construction Project:
Opening day, September 7, 2021, is going to be an exciting day for us all. Not only is it our return to five full days of in-person instruction, but for our high school faculty and students, it marks the substantial completion of our high school construction and renovation project that began back in 2018. The renovations this summer have been significant and they are still on-going. There is much work to be done in the remaining weeks before school is scheduled to begin. At the August 16th Board meeting, our architects and project managers reported to the Board the construction progress updates and assured the Board and this administration that the facilities will be ready for students in September. We are planning a virtual tour of the High School. However, the High School facility is not ready for students today. We hope to produce the virtual tour the week of August 30th. The contractors are making substantial progress every day and building inspections continue on a regular basis. We review progress and timelines each day. Certainly, we will notify our parents should problems arise that cause a delay in the opening.
Updates Regarding Return to 100% In-Person Instruction:
The school community is excited and anxious to welcome our students back to 100% In-Person Instruction in September. Both Dr. Lopez, High School Principal, and Dr. Kearns, Middle School Principal, are preparing their ‘opening packets’ for mailing next week. These packets will provide all essential information for parents and students to prepare for the return to school. To help our families better prepare for opening day, please take a moment to review the following information. As of today, our plan includes:
● NB High School and Middle School will operate five full days following our regular bell schedule of 45 minute classes, 9 periods per day, and a 30 minute lunch period.
● Per Governor Murphy, there will be no remote option for class; all classroom instruction must be in-person.
● FREE lunches will be provided daily for ALL students, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at no cost to the district.
● All sports and extracurricular activities will be offered
Health and Safety Measures:
● Masks will be required for all individuals entering the school buildings.
● Staff and students must sign NB’s COVID-19 Statement of Assurance and follow the guidelines provided. More information on this will be provided by the principals in their ‘welcome back’ packets to all parents.
● All classrooms will accommodate all students with reasonable social distancing in effect.
● Contact tracing will occur with requirements for quarantine if there is close contact with a COVID-positive individual, per NJDOH and CDC guidelines.
Cleaning and Disinfecting:
● All cleaning protocols implemented during the 2020-2021 school year will remain in effect.
● The installation of Bipolar Ionization technologies has been installed in all Middle School HVAC units and is currently being installed in all High School HVAC units.
● Disinfecting protocols will remain, and if/when there is a confirmed positive Covid-19 case, other measures and the Halo Disinfection Fogging System will be put into service.
While this past school year was challenging, it did create scenarios for new and effective ways to support our students academically and emotionally. Furthermore, please be reminded that all students have been issued a Chromebook and all teachers will use Google Classroom.
We continue to monitor daily COVID-19 cases in Burlington County. Please keep in mind that the public health situation is constantly evolving, and the plans for September and the fall are subject to change. We will maintain the level of communication and close relationships we established with parents and guardians last year. Please contact your school principal if you have any questions about the upcoming school year, but please keep in mind many details are subject to the evolving nature of the virus. By working together, we can provide the excellent programs, opportunities, and experiences all have come to expect from NB.
Dr. James Sarruda, Ed. D.