8:00 AM - 9:00 AM Students Only-Early Dismissal
Randolph Learning Community,
I hope that this message finds you healthy and well. Since the beginning of the pandemic last March, our usual way of life has been interrupted. Simple tasks like going to a restaurant, a movie, attending school or work, and gathering with friends and family have become difficult. The pandemic has taken so much from all of us, be it these regular everyday occurrences, or the companionship of more than a half million friends and family. However, through the darkness of the pandemic, there has been so much light. Our community continues to come together to support one another. Teachers and other essential workers continually adapt and prove their commitment to their professions and communities.
The education of every student is the district’s highest priority. The pandemic has forced several changes to the way in which we educate. Given CDC and health regulatory guidelines, which dictate that, “Physical distancing (at least 6 feet) should be maximized to the greatest extent possible,” we can only accommodate a certain number of students in our facilities and classrooms. This is unfortunate, as our goal as a district would be to have every student in school as much as possible. As a result of the overwhelming number of families choosing in-person instruction, the district has utilized a hybrid schedule to enable as many families as possible to access in-person instruction.
There have been articles about other school districts and their plans for reopening for additional in-person instructional time. As an example, one district in Morris County has recently shared their plans to open for full-time in-person instruction districtwide 5 days per week. While there are many variables this district may have considered, the most important driving factor influencing a district’s ability to expand in-person learning opportunities is the number of families choosing in-person instruction for their children. The district mentioned above as a comparative example has shared that at least 40% of their students are attending school virtually.
In contrast, Randolph has a much lower percentage of families choosing fully virtual instruction. As of February 19, 2021, we have 26% of elementary, 27% of middle, and 28% of our high school students attending fully virtual. This is a significant decrease in the number of students attending fully virtually since November 11, where 34% of elementary, 35% of middle, and 33% of high school students attended fully virtually.
Although we continue to see an increase in families choosing to send their child or children to school in-person, we have consistently sought ways to bring more students back for in-person instruction daily while maintaining our hybrid learning model. Recently, some instructional spaces were altered so that all kindergarten and first grade students who opted for in-person instruction could attend each day. This return was a result of survey data that afforded the district the opportunity to have more students in the classroom and maintain six feet of social distancing. Similarly, we have also been able to expand in-person instruction to our most vulnerable student populations.
Later this week, the district will send out a survey requesting updated information from families regarding in-person and virtual instruction for April - June. Any potential changes to our plans for in-person instruction will continue to be based on the number of families who report that their child is attending in-person as well as any new guidance from the state of New Jersey and health regulatory officials. We have noticed in some of our buildings, including the high school, that students who chose to attend in-person have not been consistently doing so. Commitment to a family’s intention for their child to attend school is essential on these surveys. If a student prefers the fully virtual model as opposed to the hybrid instruction model, this could give more students the opportunity to attend school in-person five days per week. If further changes can be made to our hybrid learning model, the number of students choosing fully virtual instruction would need to shift dramatically. There is no plan at this time to reduce distancing in our classrooms to less than six feet.
This survey will guide the work and plans for the months of April - June. Recent news has helped make it more likely that the district can return to a normal schedule in the fall, and our team is planning to make that a reality. Over the past few days, we have learned the following:
• Educators, including support staff, in Preschool through 12th grade are eligible for vaccination beginning March 15. More information can be found here:
• The state’s activity level index report for the week ending February 20, 2021, reflected a decrease in COVID-19 risk in the Northwest region that covers Morris County from high risk of transmission (orange) to moderate risk of transmission (yellow). More information can be found here:
• Governor Murphy indicated there is optimism that vaccine distribution will continue to increase over the next several months. He has also shared that schools may be able to fully reopen by the fall.
These factors, and the continued lessening of COVID-19 cases, bring hope for a normal September. Over the remaining few months of the school year, our entire team will continue to work to support every student, and where possible, continue to make adjustments to our plans.
Stay safe and be well.