In the education world, summer is typically a time when boards, superintendents and administrators are working to get things settled for the new school year. Hiring and onboarding of new staff takes place, new curriculum or instructional initiatives are refined, minor (or major) repairs are made to buildings, floors are polished — these are the typical types of preparations.

But this summer is not typical in any respect.

School districts have been working long hours to plan for 2020-2021 — a unique school year. Restart Committees, which include superintendents and administrators, school board members or charter trustees, local education association representatives, educators, parents and students, are charged with coordinating the overall reopening plan. School-level Pandemic Response Teams, which include a cross-section of administrators, teachers, staff and parents, have been formed to centralize, expedite and implement COVID-19-related decision-making.

They deserve our appreciation and admiration for the hard work they are doing, as nearly every day brings new data, research, and directives. A few educators have described the situation as trying to build an airplane while it is flying. They have been doing that since March, while showing determination and ingenuity in continuing to educate our children. For that, they have our sincere gratitude.

They are also working on their plans knowing, that if COVID-19 infection rates rise, school districts may have to return to educating all students remotely.

Here at NJSBA, the entire staff has also been working hard to assist districts in this process.

Our policy team has developed several documents to help boards address issues related to the pandemic and the reopening of schools. NJSBA’s virtual training programs have showcased superintendents sharing their plans and practices, as well tackling topics including special education during the pandemic, distance learning software, legal considerations, and legislative initiatives that impact New Jersey’s school districts. Our field service representatives continue to deliver critical services to boards on a virtual basis, and our legal and labor relations team has been providing information on school law and guidance on negotiations matters to board members and administrators every day.

Our Workshop team is putting together an unbelievable Virtual Workshop that will be inspiring for all participants. You can read more about this in the President’s Message.

NJSBA has also issued two special reports detailing research and best practices; “Searching for a New Normal: A Special Report on the Reopening of New Jersey’s Schools,” which was released in May; and the recently released, “Choosing the Best Road Back for Our Children.” Both are available on our special webpage, the COVID-19/School Restart Center, — along with a host of resources.

At this point in the pandemic, all of us — school districts, government agencies, NJSBA, and even the medical establishment — are operating with imperfect information.  But I am convinced that our combined wisdom and ingenuity, along with our flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances will enable us to carry on with the critical job that is entrusted to us: educating New Jersey’s children.

Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod is NJSBA executive director.

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