More in-person instruction for students in the Hillsborough Township Public School District is on the horizon.
On April 19, the school district will welcome back fifth and sixth graders, middle school students and high schoolers into the classroom for four days of half-day in-person instruction.
According to Superintendent of Schools Lisa Antunes, around 660 fifth and sixth graders are expected to partake in the new phase-in plan the school district is providing two weeks after students return from spring break, while approximately 1,780 students in grades 7-12 will come back to the classroom for more in-person instruction.
The extension of in-person instruction comes on the heels of the school district phasing more children into the elementary schools back in March.
Antunes expects about 1,630 students from kindergarten to fourth grade participate in the new phase-in plan come April 19.
All of these projections by Antunes are based on a survey that the school district sent out to all the families in the Hillsborough community last month.
Antunes says that 56% of the students in the school district do intend to come back to school for four days of half-day instruction, while 44% of the student population will continue to learn fully remotely.
“Based upon our survey results, we have a good portion of the community that has been seeking increased in-person instruction,” Antunes said. “As we have done since September, we will continue to phase in students and expand in-person opportunities in consultation with the local department of health and the district physician.”
The new phase-in model will follow in conjunction with the synchronous and asynchronous format the district has been using all school year.
Students will attend classes in person for half the day and then return home to learn remotely the rest of the day like their fellow classmates who are schooling completely virtually.
Wednesday will remain an all-virtual day for all students and teachers.
Antunes revealed that the decision to increase in-person instruction for students came from both the Hillsborough Township Board of Education (HBOE) and the Hillsborough Education Association (HEA).
“Everyone agrees that students ought to return to school,” Antunes said about the mindsets of both parties. “We want to be sure everyone has a reasonable sense of comfort and feels safe while welcoming students back.”
The superintendent said both the HBOE and HEA worked “closely together” on implementing the next step of the phase-in plan.
Antunes added that she even recently did a walk-through of the school buildings with HEA President Henry Goodhue and said that both teachers and students seemed “happy” about increasing in-person instruction and that some voiced gratitude for the school district doing so in a “reasonable and well thought out manner”.
The HBOE has also collaborated with the HEA, Somerset County officials, and Penn Medicine to give teachers in the school district access to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, said Antunes.
As for the 2021-22 school year plan, Antunes said the school district is “committed” to having full-day in-person instruction in September.
“At this time, we are planning for and are committed to full in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year,” Antunes said. “However, since March 2020, it has been an ever-changing landscape. We will continue to be prepared and work to stay abreast of the most updated guidance. “