Bordentown Regional School District to start offering five days of in-person instruction next month

STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Five days of in-person learning will be available to all students in the Bordentown Regional School District next month.

Superintendent Dr. Edward Forsthoffer sent out a letter to every family in the school district last week to announce that the Bordentown Regional Board of Education has decided to provide five days of in-person learning for four-and-a-half hours to interested students starting on April 15.

The decision was made based on a survey the district sent out to parents earlier this month that had nearly 1,300 responses as stated in the letter by Forsthoffer.

“Parents are motivated to get their kids back into the schools,” Forsthoffer said. “Our families are doing a good job following all the CDC regulations and keeping safe. We feel that with vaccinations going up and fewer cases that we can bring kids back into the schools safely for five days of in-person instruction.”

According to Forsthoffer, two-thirds of responses from parents said they were comfortable with their children coming back for five days of in-person instruction, even if that meant the school couldn’t guarantee that students would be six feet apart at all times.

Over 75% of students at the elementary and middle school level are expected to come into the building for when five days of in-person instruction begins next month.

Forsthoffer said he has heard from parents of younger children in the school district that they want to get their children back in school as soon as possible, so there is no long gap in their learning development.

Students at the high school level, however, are not pushing as much for five days of in-person instruction and are OK with the hybrid format and learning virtual, Forsthoffer said.

That response has Forsthoffer believing that a little over 50% of the students at Bordentown Regional High School will return next month for five days of in-person instruction, he said.

All classes will follow synchronous learning for those students still learning virtually, he said.

Having students return to school for five days a week is the next step towards the school district’s goal of having full in-person instruction next fall.

Forsthoffer, who is retiring from his post at the end of the school year, believes this is an “attainable goal” for the school district to be back to normal in-person learning for the start of the next school year.

He adds that this will most likely be the final phase the school district will conduct in its hybrid model for the 2020-21 school year.

Throughout this school year, Bordentown has slowly brought children back into the classroom for in-person instruction.

Before the hybrid model began last October, students in self-contained special education classes were admitted back into the building because of issues they were having with virtual learning at the end of last school year.

After the first two months of the hybrid model, high school and middle school students had their in-person instruction time extended to four-and-a-half hours for every other day they came into school based on their cohort.

Students in pre-K through fifth grade were allowed to come back in for five days of in-person learning back in February.

Forsthoffer said the school district has tried to be as aggressive as possible to bring students back into the classroom.

“There’s nothing better than teachers being in the classroom with students giving them live instruction,” Forsthoffer said. “We’ve been trying to get more kids back in school.”

That approach by the school district has been met with positive reviews from teachers, Forsthoffer said.

The superintendent has mentioned that teachers have stopped in the hallways the last couple of months to thank him for bringing kids back into the schools.

Forsthoffer is also making sure his teachers have the opportunity to get vaccinated so they can feel safer teaching students in-person.

According to Forsthoffer, most teachers in the school district are vaccinated or on the “cusp” of being fully vaccinated.

March 26 will mark the final day of school before spring break begins for the entire school district.

To ensure that there are not any COVID-19 spikes in the school district because of people celebrating Easter and Passover that week with their families, Bordentown will go full virtual for 10 days when they return from break on April 6.

Forsthoffer hopes going all virtual after spring break will stop any positive cases from spreading around the school district when the school begins having students and teachers coming in for five days of in-person instruction.

When the next phase does begin, Forsthoffer knows that all students and teachers need to stay “vigilant” in following all proper COVID-19 safety measures when inside or outside of school to make sure Bordentown can finish off the school year on a good note.

“April 15th will be a fresh start and hopefully we can make it through the final 8-9 weeks of the school year,” he said.