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Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1

Q: Can money that was added to our children’s lunch accounts be refunded, since lunch is free in our district for the year?


A: Yes, money can either be refunded to you or the money can remain in the account for menu items that are not included in the free lunch option. Our students will continue to receive a free lunch if that lunch is a complete, balanced meal according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many food and drink items that we may be offering in the future may need to be purchased “a la carte”, such as chips, extra drinks, ice cream, etc.


Q: When will hot lunch return to the schools?


A: Pizza will be offered on Friday, September 24th, 2021 and hot menu items will be posted by Maschio’s starting the week of 9/27/21.


Q: Will the mask ever be not needed in school? Why doesn’t the school “fight back” on the mask mandate for students and staff?


A: Both students and staff are mandated to wear masks in school buildings under executive order 251. Failure to adhere to this executive order, which is a state law and our legal obligation, can compromise our teaching/administration licenses (can be revoked), and can prevent us from receiving state funding, potentially causing us to make major cuts of supplies and staff in the district. In addition, factors such as emerging variants and the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available for children under 12, have made this preventative strategy of mandatory mask wearing in schools necessary at this time, but we hope that is a decision that Governor Murphy will revisit as the year progresses.

Please note that there are frequent mask breaks in place in each school building and most students are spending recess/lunch time outdoors where a mask is not required. However, some students choose to wear their masks regardless of breaks.


Q: My child has allergies and can not eat the meals provided by our schools. When will they be able to provide an allergy free meal?


A: Maschio’s will be able to work with your child’s dietary restrictions. You can contact  them at 973-598-0005 and ask to speak to a dietician. They will ensure that your child will receive a safe, healthy meal for lunch!


Q: How does the district select their STEM fair judges?


A: Weeks before each STEM fair in the schools, an invitation is sent out to the school community on social media and through phone messages to be a judge. At the middle/high school, judges are assigned based on the grade level. Those judges with a background in the sciences are reserved for the upper level and high school projects. 


Q: Why aren’t spelling lessons being taught in the early elementary grades?


A: Spelling is taught in all of our elementary grades. However, our teachers are instructed on how phonics, phonological awareness, spelling strategies, and the use of high-frequency words can progress across grades. In earlier grades, spelling difficult words is not a priority, especially when it comes to writing. We encourage our students to “sound out” difficult words in order to become more accustomed to writing as early as Kindergarten. As students progress through the grades, it becomes more of a priority to spell all words correctly and students are held accountable for spelling (and actually graded for it).


Q: I am disappointed that schools are doing their “Back to School Nights” in person this year. Why is this being done if many parents are not comfortable being in a room with many other people?


A: This year, the district felt that since the students are attending school in person, we would also have in person back to school nights. Please rest assured that all parents must be masked at the event and that it will be restricted to one parent at the elementary back to school nights. This way, we can ensure that our classrooms are not overcrowded and that we are following all state mandates regarding social distancing on school grounds.


Q: How will my child learn if they are put in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure?


A: Any student who is in quarantine due to potential exposure to the coronavirus will be eligible for virtual instruction. This will require the parent/guardian to pick up a “packet” in the main office for the child with the work for that period. The child will also join a Google Meet to participate in their classes during this time period. 



Q: What time are students allowed to enter into each school in the morning?


A: 

Huber Street School: 8:20 a.m. 

Clarendon School: 8:20 a.m

Middle School: 7:00 a.m.

High School: 7:00 a.m. 


Q: Are they implementing CRT in any way in the curriculum this year?


Our school district is not implementing critical race theory as portrayed in the media.

As a public school district, however, we are mandated to follow the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and their associated mandates, listed here: https://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/

As part of these standards and state mandates for the 2021-2022 school year, all NJ public school districts are required to include instruction on diversity and inclusion as part of implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. Each district will need to revise curricula and instruction in grades K-12. This instruction must:

  • highlight and promote diversity, including economic diversity, race and ethnicity, disabilities, and religious tolerance. 
  • address unconscious bias; and examine the impact that unconscious bias and economic disparities have at both an individual level and on society as a whole.
  • encourage safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments for all students regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual and gender identities, mental and physical disabilities, and religious beliefs. 

The Commissioner of Education will be providing more resources and sample learning activities that will add to our school’s curricula once that information becomes available from the department of education. The NJ mandate that highlights this law here: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/PL21/32_.PDF


Q: Our school bus service has been late or unreliable lately. Why?


A: Like the rest of the country, our district is very short on available bus drivers. We are advertising for new drivers daily, but we still seem to be short on the number of drivers needed to drive all of our available buses and routes. Some drivers are being asked to stay longer and add routes to their already packed schedules. Similar shortages in Massachusetts and New York state have resulted in select officers from the National Guard being called in to drive school buses to accommodate their needs. 

We ask all parents to please be patient with our bus drivers and realize that we are lucky to have many of our major bus routes covered at this time. 


Q: The students have noticed that the cafeteria has not been fully cleaned between lunch periods. Are cleaning schedules reduced since COVID cleaning has come into effect?


A: Please note that the schools are accommodating lunch periods for the first time in 18 months. Also, our full student population is also back, all eating lunch in the cafeteria and designated lunch areas. Both before and after a student group eats lunch in a designated area, custodians sanitize these areas in order to assure that students are safe to eat there. Because of the number of students and waste produced in these lunch periods, it is extremely difficult to clean each piece of refuse between lunch periods. However, please rest assured that we are working to resolve that issue. After each lunch period, tables and floors of these lunch areas are sanitized and prepared for the next event occurring in that area. 


Q: Will there be any contingency plan to return to remote instruction if things become worse. 


The district has handled any positive COVID cases that have arisen on a case by case basis, in close consultation with the county health department. If the need arises to quarantine contacts of cases in the future, where a majority of the student population would need to quarantine, then remote instruction on a temporary basis would be considered (with approval by the county and state). All executive orders given by the governor are laws we must comply with, so if we are told to shut down for a time period by the state, we must comply with that. However, for now we are  operating on a full-day in-person schedule in all school buildings. 


Q: What happens to the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments? Are students still taking them?


The Start Strong assessments are currently being administered in the secondary schools, and will begin the week of 9/27 at the elementary schools. This takes the place of standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year. As of now, we are also expecting to administer the Spring New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA, formally PARCC). We will await further guidance from the state as the school year progresses.

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