Cranbury School forges ahead in challenging 2020-21 school year

Entrance of the Cranbury School on 23 N Main St during a sunny afternoon.

Cranbury School operations are still running smoothly since making the transition to in-person instruction.

With its first week of in-person instruction already under its belt, district administrators had prepared extensively for the return of in-person instruction with measures that included not only safety protocols, but facility changes.

“Welcoming the students back to school was a true highlight of the school year so far,” Superintendent and Principal Susan Genco said.

The resuming of in-person instruction this month followed the return of in-person middle school sports that began in late September. Unlike previous years, middle school students don’t have an official fall sports season due to health and safety and a lack of teams compete against in the current era of COVID-19.

Instead, the administration implemented an intramural sports program as an alternative to an official fall season of sports. The move by the district to have in-person for fall sports has not moved to the resuming of in-person for other school extracurricular activities.

According to the district, the administration is continuing to evaluate its options.

When it comes to one of the challenges the district faces which is the substitute teacher shortage, the school is also continuing to actively recruit more substitute teachers, outside of the three current substitutes at the school.

“If we do not have the ability to physically cover a class due to our substitute shortage, we will do everything we can to notify parents by 8 p.m. the night before the teacher’s absence,” Genco said. “However, an emergency may require us to notify parents at a moment’s notice, which may result in a morning notification.”

There are 458 students currently enrollment at the school. Since the return of in-person instruction, the administration has not experienced a significant increase in change requests.

“Presently, approximately 30% of our student body is participating in the fully remote option. Change requests have been steady for both the return to hybrid or fully remote option,” Genco said.

The Cranbury School is prepared for the scenario of if a student of staff member is confirmed to be COVID positive during the course of the 2020-21 school year, according to the administration.

“In accordance with federal and state laws, the Cranbury School District will notify the staff and families of cases of COVID-19 while maintaining confidentiality in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The district administration will contact the Middlesex County Health Department,” Genco said. “Based on the guidance provided by the Middlesex County Health Department, district administration and/or district staff trained in contact tracing will assist the Middlesex County Health Department in contact tracing.”

Additionally, she stated that when the Middlesex County Health Department notifies the Cranbury School District of an official quarantine or self-isolation of a staff member or student, the district would fully comply with the recommendations of the health department and prohibit quarantined/self-isolated students or staff members from entering the school campus until they are officially released from quarantine and self-isolation.

“A student who has been placed on a mandated quarantine or self-isolation must be permitted to learn remotely during the entire span of their quarantine or self-isolation,” Genco added. “Cranbury School remains vigilant in the precautions we take to prevent the introduction and spread of viruses and other germs and we are cleaning frequently touched surfaces daily. The health and safety of our students and staff is our first priority.”

According to the district administration, the school will continue to work in consultation with local health officials in accordance with New Jersey Department of Health guidance regarding school opening, best practices or possible closures. 

“If the facts, circumstances, or impact of any case or cases indicate that closing our school for any amount of time is necessary, we would not hesitate to do so,” Genco said.