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Students at West Dover Elementary School proudly display their at-home art projects, part of their Virtual School Day.

March 24, 2020-- Toms River Regional Schools, along with countless other districts in New Jersey and throughout the country, enacted its Virtual School Day platform effective March 16 in response to COVID-19 and local and national mandates to limit travel and to practice social distancing. How is it progressing as it enters the midpoint of its second week?

So far, so good, say district officials.

“Preparedness and communication has been key for us,” said Superintendent David Healy. “Our teachers, staff, and administrators have done an outstanding job of being out in front of this, of having all of the resources in place, and maintaining links with our students and families throughout. Our admin team has remained in contact with each other and with faculty and staff on a regular basis. Thankfully, as a result, implementation has been relatively seamless thus far.”

That implementation includes the distribution of weekly meals to eligible students. The district has established guidelines on the process, which are posted to its website, and which include delivery for students outside of the walking zone at their school.     Story continues below.

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With each meal pack consisting of five breakfasts and five lunches, 1,036 packs have been picked up to date, and another 150 have been delivered.

Also online are robust instructions on the Virtual School Day process, including video tutorials, a schedule, and roles and responsibilities for parents and students. Students were provided Chromebooks to use at home, and the district has worked with local providers to ensure wifi access for families.

"The thing students crave most are the personal connections," said Assistant Superintendent Deb McKenna. "They miss their teachers and friends!"

Teachers, therefore, are doing all they can to foster and maintain those connections, utilizing virtual platforms like Google, Flip Grid, Zoom, and YouTube:



The Youth Counseling Program, a grant-funded initiative made possible by the H. Hovnanian Foundation, continues to serve students through phone calls, satellite services, and its connection with the local YMCA.

The district is also making a concerted effort to share photos and updates on its website and through its social media channels.

“Since this began, we’ve thought it important to stay connected with each other however we can,” said the district’s Coordinator of Grants and Communication Mike Kenny. “Sharing photos of our students learning virtually, or fun videos of our staff members, and staying engaged with our families through this has certainly helped. Plus we’re receiving a lot of positive feedback online about how things are going, which has been immensely reassuring.”

About that positive feedback.

"All of my love and praise to everyone making this type of learning possible," said district parent Julie Feliciano in an email to Intermediate East. "The students are engaged and they are still learning despite the circumstances we are in. Thank you Toms River Regional. You guys are AMAZING."

So yes-- so far, so good. 

Stamina is a concern, as teachers and staff members look to evolve the ways in which they keep students' interest and engagement. Nevertheless, the district is hopeful that things can continue as seamlessly as they have thus far. As cases of COVID-19 increase and mandates become stricter, the district remains closed until further notice, with its Virtual School Day plan in place.