Princeton schools return to hybrid learning

Princeton school district officials will bring students back into the classroom for hybrid learning on Jan. 19 – one week later than they had planned following the winter break.

Hybrid learning brings small groups of students into the classroom for in-person learning for part of the week, then has them learn remotely at home part of the week. The students are divided into cohorts, or groups.

Pre-school and kindergarten students began hybrid learning in September, followed by students in grades 2-12 who began hybrid learning in October. The exception was the week after Thanksgiving and the week leading up to the winter break, when all students learned remotely.

School district officials initially decided to switch to remote learning following the winter break on Jan. 4 and to resume hybrid learning on Jan. 12. But considering the potential impact of COVID-19 on the district, officials set Jan. 19 as the first day of hybrid learning.

“We needed an extra week to allow students and staff to quarantine, given the number of people who potentially may have been exposed to the coronavirus (during winter break),” said Barry Galasso, the interim superintendent of schools.

Like other public school districts in Mercer County, Galasso said, the Princeton Public Schools chose the “prudent course” by continuing with remote learning through Jan. 19 to avoid having anyone in the school community contract COVID-19.

When students return to school Jan. 19, the district will follow a model that increases in-person instruction for kindergarten and first-grade students who signed up for hybrid learning from two days of in-person instruction to four days per week, Galasso said.

While Princeton has recorded fewer positive tests for COVID-19 among its residents compared to neighboring Mercer County towns, the number of Princeton residents who have tested positive for the illness has rapidly increased in the past few weeks.

The number of residents who tested positive for COVID-19 ranged from 28 in March to 49 in April and 29 in May, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

During the summer months of June, July and August, there were eight positive tests in June and seven each in August and September, the New Jersey Department of Health reported.

The number of residents whose tests were positive for the virus in October began to creepย  up to 21. In November, 67 people tested positive for COVID-19, and 95 people had positive test results in December.

Through Jan. 11, 31 Princeton residents have had positive test results for COVID-19. This brings the number of Princeton residents whose tests for COVID-19 were positive to 551, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.