Reopening Our Schools
June 5, 2020
We will be sharing the PPS roadmap for reopening PPS schools on this page. Schools will look very different in the fall. For an idea of what we might expect, please take a look at some of the resources to the right.
Plans for Reopening
Focus on Health: Physical, Emotional, and Educational Health
Governor Murphy has announced that New Jersey schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year. While we had all anticipated this possibility, the reality still hits hard.
I want to acknowledge the disappointment we are all feeling at not being able to come together in person before the end of June. Nevertheless, I am grateful to Governor Murphy for making a decision based on what is best for the health of our students, our staff, and our state.
And it is with that health in mind that we are moving forward as a District with three phases of planning. First, we are planning for the celebration of this current year and the accomplishments of our students. Second, we are planning for the implementation of summer school. And finally, we are planning for the safe reopening of our buildings in September for in-person instruction.
Based on the Governor’s announcement, we will be completing this school year remotely. The last day of school for PPS will be June 16, and Princeton High School graduation will happen on that day. PHS will have a virtual graduation. Mindful of how important this ceremony is to our students and their families, Principal Jessica Baxter and her team are putting in place plans for a video that would show each senior physically walking on stage to receive their diploma while wearing their cap and gown. Senior Awards and the Gold Key ceremony will also both be virtual. We are hopeful that other senior celebrations could possibly be held outside later in the summer, but only if it is safe and restrictions have been lifted.
The John Witherspoon Moving On Ceremony for our eighth graders, which has traditionally been held in Richardson Auditorium, is also scheduled to be a virtual event in June. We are looking forward to this event as our JW community has already shown itself to be creative and flexible by, believe it or not, hosting grade-level dances on Zoom!
The elementary school principals and PTO’s are also thinking about virtual approaches to the fifth grade Moving On Ceremonies. Their goal is to celebrate with our students the relationships, accomplishments and memories through those magical first few years.
Summer School will also be virtual. We look forward to supporting remotely our many students who attend our Extended School Year program as well as our STARRS, LEAP, ESL and JUMPSTART programs and the various summer courses offered at the high school. If there is an opportunity to bring some of those students into our buildings safely at the end of the summer to get them acclimated for the start of the year, we will certainly try to facilitate that.
And what will happen when school starts again in September? PPS has established a Re-Entry Leadership Team of nearly 30 administrators, teachers, support staff and Board members who are considering this question. We are viewing all answers through the lens of Health, which we are categorizing in three ways.
First, we are prioritizing the physical health of our students and staff. Will we need to be taking their temperature as they enter the building? Will they need to wear masks? What will our cleaning protocols need to be? How will we maintain social distancing protocols on the bus, in the classroom, during recess? We have a subcommittee working on answering these questions and many more.
Second, we are prioritizing the emotional health of our students. This crisis has been a trauma for all of us. We have all experienced, and will continue to experience, varying degrees of fear, anxiety, and loss. As students reenter our schools, we want to assess their emotional wellness; we want to support them individually and collectively; and we want to inspire them. Schools need to be places of hope and excitement. We have another subcommittee charged with making this happen.
And, of course, we are prioritizing the educational health of our students. While many have fared well during this period of remote learning, we know that others have struggled. We need to assess the gaps or losses in learning, and we need to have a plan to address them. We have yet another subcommittee focused on this goal.
The reopening of our schools in a climate of social distancing will pose significant and complex challenges. We are not likely to flip a switch in September and suddenly have 4000 students and 800 staff back in our buildings with learning happening as it always has. We may have a phased re-entry such as in Denmark where younger children came back first. We may follow the example of Quebec, where to maintain the smaller class sizes required for social distancing, half the students in a class will come on one day and the other half the next.
Regardless of the plan, it is likely that at least initially, we will have some hybrid of remote learning and in-person instruction. It is also clear that the new normal will be very different than the previous normal. Nevertheless, as we all adjust, I hope we can hold onto the “silver linings” of our response to this crisis. Silver linings of flexibility, creativity, patience, and partnership. Sliver linings of care, compassion, grit and gratitude.
I will remain focused on working with my colleagues to create a reopening plan prior to my retirement, and I am grateful to be part of a community that will continue to value joy, purpose and innovative solutions to complex problems.
Thank you all for your ongoing support. Stay well.
Reopening Our Schools
Mental Health Resources