• July 27, 2020

    Greetings, Community Members of the Tenafly Public Schools.

    It is my hope that you are receiving this letter in good health and relatively good times for you and your family.  Summer may certainly have a different appearance this year, yet I hope it is serving you with its traditional lazy days, relaxing evenings, and time together with family and friends (in cohorts and socially-distanced, of course).

    Thank you for viewing our Tenafly Public Schools 2020-21 Reopening Plan: Welcome Home. which was formally introduced at our July 20 TBOE Meeting.
    Many parents and staff within our community have embraced the plan designed for schools’ reopening with confidence and understanding for its cautious, yet committed initial approach.

    As expected, and in accordance with the results of state and national surveys showing an even divide between those who promote a return to school and those who do not, an almost equal number of Tenafly staff and parents have articulated a polarized critique of the current plan, citing the following:
    •    Not enough/Too much regulation and safety measures for students and/or staff
    •    Not enough in-school time for students; Too many students in select schools at once
    •    Not enough/Too much per-day time for students
    •    Not enough cleaning measures in place at schools; Too much time devoted to building cleaning measures

    This feedback has come to the attention of the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent, the Assistant to the Superintendent for Special Services, the Director of Guidance, the Director of Athletics and to the Principals of the Tenafly Schools.  It has also come to the attention of the Board of Education.

    On behalf of all recipients, I express gratitude for your expressions and assure you that they are valued, appreciated, heard and understood.

    On a separate, but related note, the NJDOE changed direction on July 24th with regard to full-virtual learning.  After the original guidance restricted districts from offering an all-virtual option to students for reasons other than health, the new guidance requires districts to include a full-virtual option open to all parents for the 2020-21 school year.  This offering is definitely a game-changer to district planning, as the amount of interest in an all-virtual option will positively impact on the number of students we can accommodate onsite in socially-distanced fashion.
    A review of the feedback received from the community, coupled with the all-virtual option data to date, led the administration and the Board of Education to explore ways for enhancing the current restart plan for Phase 1.  We are now surveying the staff and parents to receive even further feedback.

    We ask all parents and staff to complete the survey designed for them
    by Wednesday, July 29:

    •    For Parents Sending their Children to School in the Fall:  TPS Parent Survey for Enhancing Our Reopening Plan
    •    For Parents Choosing the Full Virtual Option for their Children:  TPS Full Virtual Option Survey
    •    For All Staff:  TPS Staff Survey for Enhancing Our Reopening Plan
    This survey data will be shared with numerous groups, including our District Restart Committee.  The analysis of all community survey feedback, and the relevant input of committees and relevant stakeholders, will lead to proposed amendments that enhance the reopening plan. We will continue to communicate with the community as these changes are made.

    As your superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure that our plan meets each and every criteria the NJDOE requires for the safest return of students AND staff in September.  I am confident that our plan does this and that any amendments to the plan will continue to do this, while further enhancing the education of our students.

    As we arrive at a normalization of these new safety measures, such as mask-wearing, social-distancing and pre-entry screening procedures, staff and students will be better prepared to progress forward into Phases 2 and 3 with ease and comfort, ultimately achieving a return to full days with all students opting for onsite instruction.

    Thank you for your prompt participation in any surveys that have been/will be issued.

    While we remain hopeful, we must also remain realistic:  the ultimate implementation of any plan that brings students back to our brick and mortar schools relies heavily on state and local assessment of information related to the most current COVID-19 reports.  This future data remains to be seen. For this reason I encourage every family to be ready for any pivots we may have to make to the amended plans in the weeks ahead.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Shauna C. DeMarco
    Tenafly Public Schools