Remote learning for at least seven weeks at Prep

Passaic Prep goes online through at least Oct. 31

Passaic Preparatory Academy staff and students will begin the 2020-21 school year at home, utilizing remote learning. 

Students should expect to sign into Google Classroom for their first-period class by 8:30 a.m. daily.

Prep will continue remote instruction, which has been in place since March 16, after the district Board of Education voted “yes” on the Schools Restart and Recovery Plan on Aug. 12. The plan is composed of four phases meant to transition Passaic district staff and students back into the classroom. 

Passaic schools have been held remotely since March 16, when in-person schools were shuttered by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Passaic Public Schools will start the school year in Phase 1, during which students will learn from home from Sept. 10 through Oct. 31. 

We have taken feedback from parents and students and have attempted to use that information in the creation of our schedule.

— Prep Principal Dr. Marx

During that time, the board will evaluate the number of Covid-19 cases, executive orders from the governor, and other factors to determine whether to continue Phase 1 or move into Phase 2, where parents would have the ability to choose between hybrid learning (a mix of in-person learning and remote learning) or continued remote home-based instruction. Phase 2’s in-person learning will consist of one-session days.

“We truly look forward to the start of the school year,” Dr. Jason Marx, principal at Prep, told The Boulevard. “The first day back remotely will be different than a normal first day, but I know the stellar teachers from Prep will do an amazing job working with all of the students regardless of the setting.”

In a new development from last school year’s remote learning, Prep’s schedule will add a “reconnect time,” where students return to specific periods at the end of the day (see attached schedule).

remote learning schedule
Melissa Reyes

We have taken feedback from parents and students and have attempted to use that information in the creation of our schedule,” said Dr. Marx.

Dr. Marx said he believes that starting the school year with remote learning was the best decision for the school community. 

“Many people were impacted by COVID-19 in different ways, and this decision made staff feel safe and addressed any concerns they may have had about reporting to school, especially since many teachers have children that have conflicting schedules,” Dr. Marx said.

Phase 3 allows for parents to choose between hybrid learning or home based-instruction. If students choose hybrid learning, they will be returning to full-day, in-person instruction, after one-session days during Phase 2.

The last stage, Phase 4, is where students and staff can return to in-school instruction full-time.

Mr. Contaldi, Prep’s union representative for teachers and AP Macroeconomics teacher, said he is content with the decision. He believes it is the best option, as new information and developments about Covid-19 come to light.

Pullquote Photo

Unfortunately, these are unprecedented times.

— Macroecononics teacher Mr. Contaldi

“Unfortunately, these are unprecedented times,” he said. “We can’t just look at the notes from the last pandemic and repeat the process. Decisions need to be made as the situation evolves, and caution seems to be the best thing right now.”

Along with other AP teachers, Mr. Contaldi faces unique challenges to teach and prepare their students for the 2021 AP exams. While Mr. Contaldi admits that some teachers, including himself, are not fans of remote learning, they will do their best to teach their classes.

“As far as teaching AP virtually, it is hard for me to have full faith that the students are as prepared as they need to be for the tests if the teachers never actually see the students,” he said. “Last year’s students were at a disadvantage due to lack of in-person review. Hopefully this year, with some experience under our belts, we will be more successful in test prep for as long as we are out of the classroom.”

Sabrina Morocho, a junior at Prep, said she prefers in-person learning. However, she said she understands the delicacy of the Covid-19 situation and the numerous health concerns that staff and students have.

Morocho said she faced numerous internet problems, especially during Zoom calls and Google Meets. Given the challenges faced during last year’s remote learning, she is confident that she will learn from them.

“With internet issues, I will try my best this year to minimize those problems as best as I can, take good notes so that I can truly learn something, and I will ask and message my peers or teachers with any questions concerning anything that I may have missed in class,” she said.

Some Prep students struggled to reach out to their teachers about their education, health, and questions, perhaps intimidated by having to use technology to ask a simple question.

“Students really need to work on their own time management and not be afraid to reach out to teachers through email for additional support and guidance,” Dr. Marx added.

Parents and students also struggled with the “digital divide,” a term used to compare people who readily have access to the internet and technology to those who do not.

The Board of Education is working to decrease the digital divide by distributing one chromebook per student, instead of one per family, like sometimes happened last year. Any Passaic district student (pre-k through 12th grade) needing a chromebook can fill out this form to pick one up.