The headline of this week’s Gazette makes it clear: The Hammonton School District will move to all-virtual learning beginning on December 17. In-person learning is scheduled to begin again on January 15. The board of education announced the shift from in-person learning in a hybrid format, which the district had largely done since September, to the remote learning format at its regular board meeting of December 10.
Hammonton Board of Education President Sam Mento III and Hammonton Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco both spoke about the shift during the meeting.
“We gave it everything we had. I want to thank Ms. Chieco, because, like they say, it always starts at the top,” Mento said.
Chieco cited the impact rising numbers of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the area have had on the district as the reason for the change. During the meeting, she offered that the break from in-person instruction could be helpful in keeping people healthy.
“The current rise in positive cases of COVID-19 in Atlantic County and in our district has placed a severe strain on our ability to keep our in-person/hybrid offering open at this time … We were one of the few districts to open in the beginning of September and have remained open longer than many districts in our area. I hope that this time will allow our families to enjoy the holidays safely and in good health,” Chieco said.
While Chieco noted that the “majority” of the district’s positive COVID-19 cases appear to have been contracted outside the school setting, she also said the requirement to quarantine students and staff has placed “tremendous stress on our facilities.”
Students, parents and staff will now navigate a method of virtual learning that Chieco said would be different than the spring version. She said unlike last spring, students will meet with their teachers daily with live Google Meet sessions. These live sessions will be critical to making the transition effective, and parents are asked to encourage their children to attend all live Google Meet sessions, Chieco said.
Our view continues to be that there is no substitute for in-person learning. The public schools are a cornerstone of our democracy in the United States and striving for anything less than restoring the in-person learning experience to students, staff and parents is unacceptable.
Containing the virus is one key to that goal, and the health and safety of everyone involved is paramount. The other key to that goal is making sure that all stakeholders understand that the goal—always—is to return everyone to school, for in-person learning. The Gazette looks forward to reporting on that achievement when it occurs.