BASKING RIDGE, NJ—Bernards School District Superintendent Nick Markarian answered questions from parents at Monday night’s board of education meeting, addressing concerns about reopening, remote learning, and safety.
“We’re focused on getting students back in school right now,” Markarian said, “and having a pattern of success where we don’t have to close like some of our neighbors have.”
Several schools in Somerset and Morris counties have temporarily pivoted to online learning this month after positive coronavirus cases were reported. Bernards students were given an option of hybrid or all-remote school this fall. Markarian said one third of Bernards Township students chose remote-only learning.
Markarian and other school district leaders received seemingly contradictory guidance from the state in the leadup to the school year, as he and other New Jersey administrators spent most of the summer operating under the directive that some in-person school was required.
But an executive order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy on Aug. 12 reversed course, leaving teachers, school administrators, and parents upset and confused. Bernards Township schools are remote-only until October.
When switching to remote learning last month, the district said it was waiting for various PPE to be delivered and installed. The majority of the equipment and supplies that the district needed to put in place, including touchless faucets, and automatic hand sanitizer, soap, and paper towel dispensers, has been installed, according to Timothy Salmon of the finance committee.
“All bathrooms have these items,” said Salmon, “and this will not prevent us from opening school.”
Markarian said it was difficult to predict what will happen when in-person instruction resumes, and he couldn’t give a specific scenario that would definitely trigger a continuation of online learning or another pivot once students are back in the building.
“It’s really difficult to say, ‘if this, then that,'” said Markarian, in response to a question about the potential for shifting back to remote learning after schools open Oct. 3. “What we can say is that we work with the health department to support their contact tracing, and they will make recommendations for what is appropriate for public health.”
This article originally appeared on the Basking Ridge Patch