Murphy and Niesz discuss Bayonne’s transition to hybrid instruction

Superintendent of Schools John Niesz previously wrote the governor calling for school staff to be priority for vaccinations

Over the phone, Murphy discussed Bayonne's plan to transition to hybrid instruction in May.
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Over the phone, Murphy discussed Bayonne's plan to transition to hybrid instruction in May.

Bayonne Superintendent of Schools John Niesz and Governor Phil Murphy have discussed the school districts reopening, plan according to Niesz. In a letter to the community, Niesz said that he and Murphy spoke over the phone on March 23 about the district’s transition to hybrid instruction in May.

“Governor Murphy cordially thanked us for all we have been doing and acknowledged that we have a great team in the City of Bayonne,” Niesz said. “He was excited to hear about our efforts to return to an in-person hybrid instruction model on May 3, 2021 and he supports us in our efforts. In these challenging times, it was nice to hear from Governor Murphy as he acknowledged all of our great students, teachers, assistants and administrators.”

Niesz previously wrote to Murphy in February, urging him to allow teachers and education staff to be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. On March 1, Murphy did just that.

Since then, the school district was able to get all school employees vaccinated. May 3 will mark two weeks after all employees received their second doses, Niesz said. This is the approximate amount of time it takes to achieve full immunity after receiving the second dose.

Throughout March, Murphy has been urging districts to return to the classroom in some format.

“Now is the time for all of our schools to meaningfully move forward with a return to in-person instruction, whether it be full-time or with a hybrid schedule,” Murphy said at a COVID-19 press conference on March 17.

Back to the classrooms

Niesz announced earlier this month that the district will return to classrooms using a hybrid instruction model in May. Under current virtual instruction, teachers have been conducting live sessions from either their classrooms at school or their homes through a learning system called Schoology.com.

Over the summer, the district decided to remain virtual for the 2020-2021 school year. Each month since school started in September the plan was reevaluated to determine if a return to the classrooms was possible yet. The main factors holding up the return to in-person learning were the need to vaccinate teachers and renovate schools to make them safe.

Teachers and school staff are now vaccinated and school renovations have since been completed with the help of federal funding. Many buildings are more than 87 years old and needed safety upgrades.

Currently, the district is surveying the community to determine how many students will be coming back in May. That information will help the district determine the type of hybrid model it will implement.

Hybrid instruction information

All schools will rotate in and out of classrooms on the same days. According to Niesz, this helps with food service, transportation, potential COVID-19 outbreaks, and families with children in different schools. The district will schedule students from the same households to learn from the classrooms on the same days.

Students will be allowed to switch from hybrid to virtual instruction once the school year starts. Students can also switch from virtual instruction to hybrid. However, each request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Niesz strongly recommends that students who choose virtual stay virtual. The reopening plan depends on how many students choose to transition to hybrid instruction.

Niesz expects a return to full in-person instruction in September.

Addressing learning gaps

After a year of virtual instruction, the district is looking to address learning gaps. Niesz said that he and the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Dennis Degnan are putting together a robust educational service for the summer, aiming to close the learning gap for students who struggled during virtual instruction.

The district will offer extra instruction through summer school as well as other enrichment opportunities. Niesz said that the district will do “whatever it takes” to close that gap, with extra instruction before or after school.

“We will communicate with our community frequently in preparation of our return to a hybrid schedule,” Niesz said. “We thank you for your support, and we look forward to our return on May 3, 2021. We will finish our school year safe, smart and strong.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.