Large Number Of Teachers Requesting Leave Prompted Ditching Of In-Person School Plan

Schools Superintendent John Ravally explained the reasons for the district temporarily scrapping its in-person instruction plan for this Fall.

The prospect of having more than 125 of the district’s roughly 800 certificated teachers not show up in the classrooms on a daily basis this Fall forced school officials’ hands in deciding against the planned in-person option for most of Franklin public school students.

The district shelved its hybrid plan, which called for half of a school’s students showing up on alternating weeks, in favor of nearly complete remote learning for when school starts on September 8.

That plan will be in effect at least until November 30, school officials said.

Schools Superintendent John Ravally said the numbers were against them going forward with their plan.

“To date we have received 84 requests from certified teaching staff and have seven vacancies,” Ravally said in an email. “Given the size of our certificated staff, that equates to over 11 percent. In addition, we can see a 4 percent to 6 percent absenteeism rate among this group of employees, which could translate to more than 125 daily vacant teaching positions that we would need to fill.”

“Even if we were to successfully fill those positions, which is not likely, it is our belief that the continuity and quality of instruction for students, given the complexities involved with delivering instruction in the hybrid format, will be adversely impacted,” Ravally wrote in the email. “Once we have identified the reasons for the higher than usual number of requests, we will work with the (Franklin Township Education Association) to alleviate concerns, allowing us to progress toward more in-person instruction.”

There will be exceptions to the remote learning plan, school officials detailed on August 19. Special needs students and students who receive special therapies will be brought in to the schools for in-person sessions in phases.

“Since the district recognizes the value of in-person instruction and realizes that the sooner we are able to return to some in-person instruction the better, especially for students with special needs,” district spokeswoman Mary Clark said in an email. “We have proposed a phased plan for students in specialized programs to return to school.”

But the majority of Franklin’s more than 6,000 students in traditional public schools will learn remotely. In general, the schedule is for students to be given “synchronous” instruction – meaning everyone learning the same ting at the same time – Mondays through Thursdays, with asynchronous learning on Fridays.

The district will run all remote-learning programs on the minimum session schedule.

The school days for Franklin High School students will run from 7:20 a.m. to 12:03 p.m. Teachers will check in with students and hold office hours from 12:35-2:33 p.m.

The middle school students’ days will run from 7:20 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., with teacher check-ins and office hours from 12:45-2:33 p.m.

The instruction time for elementary school students in Conerly Road, Hillcrest and Franklin Park schools will run from 8:50 a.m. to 1:40 p.m., with teacher check-ins from 1:40-3:30 p.m.

The instruction time for elementary school students in Claremont, MacAfee Road, Pine Grove Manor and Elizabeth Avenue schools will run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., with teacher check-ins from 2:20-4:10 p.m.

In all cases, clubs and extra-curricular activities will take place at the usual times.

As far as students who need specialized learning, students who need special therapies, evaluations and specialized testing, such as English as a Second Language, will be given in-person training beginning September 8.

They will be joined starting October 12 by students who are in the Pre-K -12 Autism and Elementary Behavioral Disabilities programs, and Grades 6-12 Multiple Disabilities and Cognitively Impaired programs.

On November 9, those students will be joined by students in the Pre-K-12 Learning and/or Language Disabilities Severe and Pre-K-5 Multiple Disabilities and Cognitively Impaired programs.

All students participating in the hybrid program are scheduled to begin in-person learning on November 30.

That phase-in schedule is contingent on the district having the necessary resources, school officials said.

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