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School district to implement five days a week of full-day in-person learning by mid-May

The Hopewell Valley Regional School District administration building in Pennington.

Before the 2020-21 school year comes to a close, Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) students and teachers will experience the return of full-day in-person learning for five days a week.

The school district announced the decision in a districtwide message on April 22, as the new schedule is set to begin on May 17. The last day of school for the district is June 17.

The move returns the district to a pre-coronavirus pandemic schedule for all education levels, according to the administration.

Several factors had to come into play for the district to be able to implement the new schedule next month. The first is a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases across Hopewell Valley, then the district staff and parents’ comfort level with how the district has been handling its COVID-19 cases, and a third factor involving the interest level from students and families who have been learning remotely.

“We heard from a lot of remote families that they wanted to wait until after spring break. We wanted to bring back everybody and see what those numbers were, before we moved to full-day,” Superintendent of Schools Thomas Smith said. “We are at that point now. Everybody who is interested in coming back has come back. We have another week or so, where the high school and middle school are going to bring back another round of students, but the elementary level is all set.”

Even though the district is moving to full-day, five days a week in-person instruction, the remote learning program will continue in throughout the district for the rest of the school year.

“Without a doubt, we are not forcing anybody back,” Smith added.

HVRSD consists of six schools: Hopewell Valley Central High School (HVCHS), Timberlane Middle School (TMS), Toll Gate Grammar School, Hopewell Elementary School, Bear Tavern Elementary School and Stony Brook Elementary School.

According to the district administration, the district will welcome back additional HVCHS and TMS students, collapse student cohorts at TMS, and pilot a few full-day program classes on the elementary level in the coming weeks. School principals will release specifics pertaining to each school about the return.

The administration wanted to get a good on handle on the numbers of who was coming back for in-person learning to address any challenges of classroom and additional space within its six schools.

“The space issue I think we can address and are addressing. I think the biggest challenge and biggest worry for people, even though we have a plan, is what lunch is going to look like,” Smith said. “When you have that large amount of unstructured time, how are we going to work to social distance students and make sure everyone is safe? That is really the reasoning behind starting it this year, so we can run through lunches, run through recesses, run through those unstructured programs, so everyone is safe and we can start the 2021-22 school year in September on a smooth plain.”

The district will use the final weeks of the school year to focus on what is working and examine what is not.

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