BORDENTOWN – The long awaited hybrid plan by the Bordentown Regional School District went into action on Oct. 13.
The five schools in the district were able to welcome students into the building for in-person instruction.
After a whirlwind ride to get all the personal protective equipment (PPE) and other tools needed to provide the safety of faculty and students, Superintendent Dr. Edward Forsthoffer is happy everything is in place to get students back in school.
“We’re as ready as we can be,” Forsthoffer said. “All the provisions are in place in all the schools for the students to come back. This is the transitional step towards normalcy.”
Bordentown operated under a completely virtual learning environment for the first month of the school year.
Following the evaluation of how online learning went last spring, Forsthoffer said the district made it a focus to make sure students had at least three hours of live instruction from teachers through virtual classes.
That point of emphasis, in the eyes of Forsthoffer, has helped make virtual learning a little easier for the students to start the year. It gave the district time to get everything in place for them to have the opportunity to come back to school and participate in the hybrid model.
Forsthoffer states the district has done everything they can to bring faculty and students back into schools as soon as possible and as safe as possible, knowing that in-person instruction by teachers in the classroom is the best way for kids to learn.
“Virtual learning is a good compromise, but there is nothing like students and teachers interacting with each other in a classroom,” he said.
According to Forsthoffer, Cohort A and Cohort B will each have about a third of the students in the district as part of its group.
The last third of the population will be doing all virtual learning.
Cohort A will go into school in the morning for three hours of in-person instruction, while Cohort B will have virtual learning that afternoon for three hours. They will switch the following day with Cohort B going into school for in-person classes and Cohort A doing virtual learning.
The district has been able to phase in students with special needs back into the schools for live in-person instruction and other special education services for all five days over the last couple of weeks.
Kindergarten students were also able to get acclimated to in-person learning over the course of the past few weeks in the district’s Kindergarten Camp program to prepare them for the hybrid model.
Forsthoffer said each group has done really well and has given the entire district a big boost going into starting the hybrid model this week.
He also was very impressed with the younger students doing a good job of wearing masks at all times.
“It was a huge boost having them all in,” he said. “Schools are miserable when kids aren’t around. Everyone was happy to see the kids back in school.”
Forsthoffer understands that the first few days of the hybrid model will be the true test of how the district handles all the COVID-19 safety protocols.
The district will monitor the plan throughout the month and see where everything stands after the first marking period before making a decision.
The next step in the process, if deemed safe enough for teachers and students, will be to increase live-person instruction. This will allow children that were doing all virtual learning to have the choice to come into the hybrid model if they wanted, said Forsthoffer.
Because the seven half-days on the school calendar at the end of December, Forsthoffer said the district has talked about doing synchronized learning on those days with in-person and virtual students having live instruction by their teacher at the same time.
On another note, Forsthoffer said he feels the hybrid model will benefit students a lot in their learning process by having more one-on-one interaction with their teachers during in-person class time.
As he looks forward to seeing children back in the classroom this week, Forsthoffer knows there’s a long road ahead until the district meets its ultimate goal of all in-person instruction.
For now, the superintendent is happy to be able to give teachers the chance to teach their students in-person and provide children with best learning opportunities under the hybrid plan.
“Having students back in the classroom with their teachers is the best thing for them,” Forsthoffer said. “We want to make sure our students and faculty feel safe. We’re going to do things as safe as possible while doing live instruction.”