UNION, NJ – Since he was named interim superintendent of Union schools, getting in-person learning operationalized has been his number one priority.
Gerry Benaquista notified parents and students on Feb. 15 that in-person learning via a hybrid model will begin on March 15. The option to continue virtual learning remains in place. Benaquista said about 37 percent of the student population has selected the hybrid option (2,648 students) [as of Feb. 11]. He said 59 percent have chosen to remain virtual.
“The biggest challenge is managing all the classrooms that need coverage,” said Benaquista, “and trying to keep as many students with their teachers as possible.”
Benaquista said parents will receive communication from building principals early in April. Those who did not select the hybrid program beginning on March 15, will have an opportunity to move to that platform before the fourth marking period. He said students can move from hybrid to virtual learning at any time.
The District Reopening Plan is being reviewed and updated with minor changes said Benaquista. “Once back to school, it will take some time for adjustment,” he added. “We want to give the students as many ‘normal’ opportunities as possible.” For instance, he said, the administration is considering the possibility of an outdoor prom and are hoping they can schedule one, large school graduation ceremony. “We want this to be great for all students, but in particular, we want this to be a great year for our seniors as they leave our district.”
Benaquista said many of the staff are anxious to come back. “Everyone wants some normalcy – students and adults.” He said he has been working closely with union leadership, who “have been very helpful in getting to this point,”
“Change is not easy,” added Benaquista, “but this is the right thing to do for our students. Union can open safety and successfully.”
In a video entitled “Township of Union Public Schools: Cleaning Our Schools”, custodians and maintenance employees demonstrated how schools and classrooms will be cleaned on a daily basis, including cleaning and sanitizing products and equipment, and discussions about cleaning and sanitizing schedules.