By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr
Ocean Township – The mantra for the township school district is Spartan Legacy, and with the pandemic of 2020, that legacy is changing.
“This is an amazing time for educators and they are demonstrating how talented and dedicated they are,” said Jim Stefankiewicz, superintendent of schools. He added that they are a couple of weeks into remote learning and he continues to get feedback from the teachers, students and parents. “Every day we are tweaking our plans.”
There are approximately 3,400 students in the township and all of them from k-12 are fortunate enough to have Cromebooks. “We completely changed the way we do things overnight. I saw online that someone compared what we are doing as educators to the Apollo 13 mission,” added Stefankiewicz. That was the space mission to the moon where the spacecraft suffered a ruptured oxygen tank nearly 56 hours into its trip to the moon. Within an instant, the crew of Apollo 13 had to change everything they knew about space flight.
Ocean Township is among a handful of schools in our state that are “Future Ready” which strives to have every child, regardless of family income or where they live to have access to a personalized student-centered learning environment, research-based digital learning, technology-driven, and learning that taps into passions and interests. “In a drop of a hat we had to develop a remote learning format. A vast majority of our students have internet access, fewer than 100 didn’t. The district was able to get them hotspots which connected them to the worldwide web,” Stefankiewicz said.
When the school closures were ordered, Stefankiewicz said he told his staff three-words were very important. “Communication, patience and flexibility. We must make sure we communicate clearly with everyone, and know that not everything will be working out as we hopped at first, so be patient. And the flexibility in presenting and working with students and parents,” said Stefankiewicz. He is also concerned about those students who normally struggle with a normal school setting might be having difficulties with remote learning.
Stefankiewicz and his staff have established a food distribution plan where students and parents can pick-up breakfast and lunch at Grab & Go sites within the township. The district will only distribute food on Monday and Wednesday of each week. Monday students and parents will receive food for two days, and on Wednesday they will be given a three-day supply. The sites are Ocean Township Elementary School, Wanamassa Elementary School, Township of Ocean Intermediate School, Middlebrook Center Movie Theatre, Twinbrook Village Armstrong Blvd., near the pool complex and at Continental Gardens, Willow Drive between buildings 16 and 18. Pick-up time is from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.