East Windsor Regional School District students will be back in the classroom in person – using the hybrid instructional model – beginning Jan. 19, school district officials said.
It will be the first time that students have been in the classroom since March 2020, when Gov. Phil Murphy closed school buildings to students and staff in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
East Windsor Regional School District students, who have been learning remotely since March, had been set to begin hybrid learning in November. The hybrid model alternates between bringing small groups of students into the classroom for in-person learning part of the week, and having them learn at home remotely for part of the week. School district officials postponed implementing hybrid learning in November because of an uptick in the number of positive tests for COVID-19 in East Windsor Township and Hightstown Borough.
As of Jan. 9, there have been 1,611 total positive tests for COVID-19 in East Windsor and 415 total positive tests in Hightstown since the first cases were reported last year, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
During October, there were 64 positive tests for COVID-19 in East Windsor and 10 in Hightstown. The numbers began to climb in November, when there were 268 positive tests in East Windsor and 71 in Hightstown.
In December, 289 East Windsor residents had tested positive for the disease, while Hightstown reported 74 positive tests. During the first nine days of January, 135 positive tests were reported in East Windsor and 26 in Hightstown.
With the East Windsor school district’s move to hybrid learning, students have been divided into two cohorts, or groups. One group will attend school in person on Monday and Thursday, and the other group will attend school in person on Tuesday and Friday. All students will learn remotely on Wednesday.
“We believe the consistent designation of days for in-person instruction each week will assist families with planning, especially when it comes to arranging childcare,” said Mark Daniels, the superintendent of schools.
Setting aside Wednesday as a remote instructional day will allow custodians to provide for deep cleaning and sanitizing the schools, Daniels said.
Students will need to complete a daily health screening that provides a brief health questionnaire to be filled out at home, he said. Temperature checks will be taken when students arrive at school.
If a student displays symptoms of COVID-19 while at school, the student will be evaluated by the school nurse and, if necessary, will be isolated while waiting for a parent or guardian to pick up the child.
Daniels cautioned parents that it may be necessary to temporarily close a school as a result of a positive test for COVID-19, which has happened at schools across the state that had opened for in-person instruction.
“If it is determined that we need to briefly close a school building, we will transition all students enrolled in that school to remote learning until in-person instruction can resume,” Daniels said.
Families need to be flexible and should be prepared for the temporary closure of a school building and the return to remote learning at any given time, Daniels said.
The school district keeps tabs on the number of positive tests of COVID-19 among students and staff. The reports are issued weekly “to maintain a sense of transparency, and are not intended to cause alarm,” school district officials said.
Between Sept. 1, 2020, and Jan. 8 – the most recent report – a total of 102 students and staff had tested positive for COVID-19. This includes 81 students and 21 staff members.
Highstown High School reported a total 27 students and three staff members to date, while the Melvin H. Kreps Middle School reported 14 students and three staff members had tested positive.
At the four elementary schools, 11 students and three staff members tested positive at the Grace N. Rogers Elementary School, plus seven students and four staff members at the Perry L. Drew Elementary School.
At the Walter C. Black Elementary School, 15 students and four staff members received positive COVID-19 test results. Seven students – but no staff members – tested positive at the Ethel McKnight Elementary School.