Camden city schools share tentative plan for hybrid reopening

Camden Board of Education building. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

Camden Board of Education building. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

When schools in the Camden City School District reopen for the 2020-2021 school year, students will be split into two distinct cohorts. While one group is receiving in-person instruction, the other will be learning remotely. All students will receive remote instruction on Fridays.

Custodians will sanitize buildings on a more regular basis and one-way hallways will be implemented when possible. There will also be sanitation stations throughout the building.

School Superintendent Katrina McCombs “wanted to be very clear” to those watching the virtual meeting of the school district advisory board on Tuesday: “These plans are in no way, shape or form final.”

“These plans are fluid,” McCombs said. “The task force is constantly working and updating the plans as we get more guidance from the state.”

McCombs said the district heard feedback from nearly 700 families and 300 teachers as they were crafting the plans for reopening in September. Guidelines from the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were also reviewed.

She added that while considering the hybrid option, “safety, consistency and equity were at the forefront.”

“In following with the state’s guidance with in-person instruction, we must still maximize the safety of our students and staff,” she said. “It’s not only about ensuring their personal safety, it’s also about them going home to their respective families each night. We need to maximize the safety of the entire community.”

McCombs also announced that the district had ordered reusable masks for staff and students to arrive before the first day of school on Sept. 3.

There has been pushback, however, on reopening school buildings by the teachers’ union, the Camden Education Association. They’ve been lobbying to keep the buildings closed and to have remote learning as the only option until the pandemic has subsided.

Several commenters who called into the meeting, including a representative from the Camden Education Association, have asked the school district to reconsider opening buildings to students in September.

Parents can opt their child out of in-person instruction, per Gov. Phil Murphy’s directive. To do so, they need to fill-out a survey by Aug. 5. If they decide to opt-out, guardians must commit to remote learning for the first semester, which runs from September to January.

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