Three COVID-19 cases force Bordentown Regional High School to stay virtual until next week

STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

A positive COVID-19 case this past weekend forced Bordentown Regional High School to remain all virtual until Jan. 19.

According to Superintendent Dr. Edward Forsthoffer, one student tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number to three individuals in the last week who have contracted COVID-19 since the school returned from the holiday break.

Two students and a staff member are the three COVID-19 cases in the high school, said Forsthoffer.

“I spoke with the Department of Health and the recommendation is when you hit three cases to go all virtual and quarantine the entire school,” Forsthoffer said.

The superintendent said the three cases are unrelated, and each individual identified contracted the virus from someone outside the Bordentown Regional School District.

Forsthoffer said he and the school district were not surprised by the shutdown, saying “they expected more positive cases occurring after the holiday break”.

This is the first time this school year that Bordentown Regional High School has shut down because of COVID-19.

It was back in late November when both Bordentown Regional Middle School and Peter Muschal Elementary School were forced to go all-virtual for a week after each school had three positive tests in 14 days.

Each school returned to conduct in-person instruction in its hybrid model before the holiday break.

The school district’s hybrid model has gone well in the eyes of Forsthoffer, especially in terms of the virus with “not having any sort of transmission rate”.

He said that any positive cases in the school district have not occurred from the hybrid model and that every individual that has contracted the virus got it from outside the district.

“It hasn’t been too bad,” Forsthoffer said. “We have been safe by following the guidelines of the Department of Health. All of our students and staff have done a good job social distancing and wearing masks at all times. That has helped us not have any sort of outbreak in the schools.”

About one-third of the student population in the entire school district is participating in the hybrid model, Forsthoffer said.

Last month, the school district transitioned to all synchronous learning for students in both the high school and the middle school and extended the school day.

Classes in the high school went from 40 minutes to 65 minutes, while the middle school is now conducting all of its core classes for 65 minutes and its humanities courses for 30 minutes.

The extension of the day gives students who are partaking in the hybrid model more time with their teachers for in-person instruction and more interaction with teachers for those learning virtually, Forsthoffer said.

Forsthoffer said the district is currently surveying parents of students in both elementary schools and the MacFarland Intermediate School about doing more in-person instruction starting in February.

Depending on the number of students participating in the hybrid model, Forsthoffer said talks have been centered around adding more days of in-person instruction for the younger students, possibly even a full five-day week.

“We’re trying to increase the quality of instruction,” Forsthoffer stated. “That can come from extending the time of the school day or expanding instruction in other ways. We want to prevent any academic lag for students, so they don’t fall behind.”

Adding more days of in-person instruction for students in the high school and middle school will be discussed in the future, Forsthoffer said.

Because holiday breaks have led to gatherings with people outside the school district, the superintendent hopes with no week-long holiday breaks coming up in the next two months that positive cases will decrease.

He added that as vaccinations begin to be given out that the hope is for cases to level off to allow the school district to provide more forms of in-person instruction to students.