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OCEAN CITY - The Ocean City School District has released a plan for re-opening its school buildings using a hybrid model.

According to a release, in the hybrid schedule, students will report for in-person instruction with their assigned cohorts – either O or C – for two full days of learning, and then participate in three days of virtual learning. Staff will report for training the week of Sept. 1, and then school buildings will open to Sept. 8. Alternatively, families will have the opportunity to enroll their student(s) in the Ocean City Virtual Academy, the district’s full-time virtual learning program.

“The district’s goal is to transition back to full in-person teaching and learning as soon as it is safe to do so, but we believe opening with a hybrid model is how we can best comply with the current health guidelines aimed at slowing and preventing the spread of COVID-19,” stated OCSD Superintendent Kathleen Taylor, Ed.D. “Our goal from the onset has been to protect the health and well-being of our school community as we work to resume in-person learning and continue delivering an exceptional educational experience for our Ocean City students.”

“The combination of in-person and virtual learning in the hybrid schedule also ensures that we have plans in place to support both styles of instruction,” stated Taylor. “We have spent the summer planning how to return to in-person learning as safely as possible during a pandemic, and we also have worked to reflect on lessons learned during our spring transition to virtual learning so that we can make improvements. The bottom line is we are committed to making both methods of instruction the best they can be, and that also means we are flexible and can switch to full-time in-person or full-time virtual schooling as circumstances change.”

The focus on enhancing the at-home learning experience will also benefit those families who choose the district’s full-time virtual option, the Ocean City Virtual Academy, for their child. This option is provided to those who do not yet feel comfortable returning for in-person learning, in accordance with new expectations released by the state, in July, requiring all schools to offer full-time remote learning.

The district has surveyed parents/guardians to determine their plans for their child to start the new school year. The results will help provide the division of students into cohorts O and C, although most will be determined by last name to ensure students in the same families have the same learning schedules. Cohort V will be all students in the Ocean City Virtual Academy. OCSD will announce the cohorts to families by the week of Aug. 17.

OCSD will implement COVID-19 protocols approved by the New Jersey Department of Health. Daily practices will include multi-step health screenings for all students and staff, face coverings worn at all times by students and staff, increased breaks for hand-washing and sanitizing, and enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the day and the entire school building daily.

Students will enter and exit each building at one set of doors. Visitors will not be allowed in the schools for the time being, and family members will not leave their vehicles when picking up or dropping off their children. Students who ride the bus will wear a face covering and social distance to the greatest extent possible.

Students will follow a half-day schedule the first week of school, Sept. 8-11, and then begin following a full-day schedule on Sept. 14. Details of Ocean City’s Return to School Plan and more specifics on health and safety practices for the 2020-2021 school year are available on the district website, www.oceancityschools.org, which is updated frequently to reflect new information and changes in response to the evolving public health situation.

“We know that there is no one perfect plan that allows us to follow directives for some in-person learning, simultaneously offer a full-time virtual option and prioritize student and staff safety,” stated Taylor. “We ask our community to trust that we worked tirelessly to develop a plan that works toward all of these goals, as well as consider our stakeholder feedback and the lessons we learned from the spring, to create the best plan for OCSD. It’s not perfect, but if we work together to implement it, our students just might think it is.”

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