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Lawrence Township school board awards bus contracts to prepare for return to school

Having awarded several school bus transportation contracts, the Lawrence Township Public Schools is on the road to bringing students back into the classroom.

The Lawrence Township Board of Education awarded two contracts to transportation company George Dapper Inc. at a special meeting Sept. 25.

One contract is for special education students, who are expected to return to the classroom Oct. 12, and a second contract for the remainder of the students, who are tentatively slated to return for in-person instruction in November.

School district officials are not locked into a date for students to return to the classroom, and the contracts may be amended to reflect the start date. The district plans to phase in the students’ return to the classroom for in-person learning.

Students began the school year learning remotely from home. Superintendent of Schools Ross Kasun had said that conditions would be reassessed every 30 days, with the goal of bringing the students back into school. If all goes well and conditions improve, the district can implement hybrid learning for students whose families have chosen that model.

The hybrid option would bring small groups of students into the school building – properly socially distanced and wearing face masks – on different days and in different weeks. Students would be divided into Group A and Group B. A third group of students would continue to learn remotely at home, by choice.

The district expects to bring back about 40 special education students in self-contained classrooms at the Ben Franklin and Lawrenceville elementary schools Oct. 12, Kasun said. Officials are monitoring the situation and hope to possibly bring the regular education students back into the classroom – using the hybrid model – next month.

Meanwhile, the district is surveying families to determine which families want in-person learning and which families would prefer all-remote learning.

“So much is new for us. We continue to learn and get better. We have about 150 to 200 staff working daily. We are in a good spot,” Kasun said.

“The phase-in plan is in place, and we are moving forward. We have the school buses ready,” he said.

Kasun said all of the school superintendents in Mercer County are looking at the COVID-19 rates in the county, and weighing education and returning to in-person instruction against health, safety and well-being issues. The Lawrence school district is taking its time, he said.

School district officials also are ensuring there is adequate ventilation in the classrooms, said Thomas Eldridge, the school district’s business administrator.

New unit ventilators – “the boxes under the windows” – have been installed in all of the classrooms, Eldridge said. The unit ventilators “scrub” the air with a filter, he said, adding that “we look to be in good shape.”

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