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  • Writer's pictureRobin Chieco

Perspective: Hammonton Schools

As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the lessons we have learned over the past 12 months. (THG/Dan Russoman)

As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the lessons we have learned over the past 12 months. With changing conditions, fluctuating infection rates and more than 25 percent of the student population still participating remotely, the challenges presented to the school district along with the Hammonton community have been extensive. What has always been at the forefront is the community that makes up the Hammonton School District. Each group was integral in our ability to weather this storm and emerge poised to prepare for September with a sense of hope.

To our board of education, administration and their office personnel, we were assigned a monumental task of providing in-person and remote options to families with no additional staff. To prioritize staff and student safety and comply with ever-changing restrictions, we were forced to make some unpopular decisions. As public health conditions changed, we were challenged repeatedly to alter our schedules with little notice. Our ability to keep our schools open for the majority of the time from September to June is a testament to your leadership and support.

To our teachers and other certified staff, I am humbled and extremely proud of your ability to continue to provide instruction and support to your students. Implementing a hybrid schedule and preparing video lessons for numerous topics and groups demonstrated that teaching extends beyond the classroom walls. Teaching this year involved in-person interactions along with virtual instruction. Not only were you teaching your students but sometimes their families as well. In addition, our counselors and Child Study Team (CST) members visited homes personally to ensure that our students were managing the isolation associated with the pandemic. Throughout this health emergency, our school nurses have worked tirelessly to remain up to date with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements, as well as maintaining records of all COVID-19 cases, contact tracing and quarantine schedules. All of these obstacles have sharpened your skills, and I am confident that in September you will be even better at your craft.

To our instructional and personal care aides, I am most impressed by your flexibility. When extra supervision was required, you were there to fill in the gaps when necessary. Whether you were remote facilitators, providing assistance to learners, covering classes or helping with lunches and dismissals, you were there without hesitation. Our buildings were able to remain open due to your dedication to our district.

To our technology department, we could never have survived the various instructional models implemented this past year without your expertise. The success of virtual learning hinged upon your efforts. Students were able to participate in their classes no matter their location due to your assistance and support.

Our custodial, maintenance and grounds staff have remained constant and committed throughout this past year. Our buildings and facilities have never been as immaculately maintained. The constant sanitizing and reconfiguring of indoor and outdoor areas were accomplished due to your incredible work ethic.

Our transportation department has not only delivered our children safely to and from school each and every day but has also delivered food to families in need. Our drivers have cleaned their buses daily and ensured that students remained in their assigned areas. When required, transportation personnel were able to meet the needs of the district.

A special recognition belongs to our food service department. For the past 16 months, this group of individuals has reported to work and adjusted their schedules to guarantee that all students aged 18 and younger can have breakfast and lunch five days per week. They have packaged meals for anyone that requested and continue to provide this service each and every day. In addition, they assisted Waterford Township Schools with their meal distribution when they were closed due to contaminated buildings. No matter the weather conditions, this group provided a service to our school and community and we are eternally grateful.

To the students of the Hammonton School District, you have demonstrated your ability to adapt to any condition. Although the school year was not traditional, you attended classes, completed assignments and became independent learners. To quote the students in Room 108 at Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School, “We learned a lot and had fun.”

Finally, I would like to recognize the families and community members of the Hammonton School District. I understand the stress this past year has placed on your schedules and homes. Whether it was an email thanking a teacher or providing vaccines to our staff, the Hammonton community has done what it has always done. It takes care of each other as a family, making sure we have what we need.

We have persevered through this health emergency and are prepared to deal with COVID-19 and move forward. We have learned how to prioritize what is most important in our lives. Our schools will once again be ready to open our doors to all students in September, offering the same in-person, full-day instruction that our staff has always provided the students of Hammonton. Classrooms are meant to be filled with children learning and exploring the world. The Hammonton School District will be ready and waiting to begin the 2021-2022 school year with much anticipation.

Robin Chieco

Hammonton Superintendent of Schools


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