As the Princeton Public School District gears up for the first day of full-time, in-person learning on Sept. 9, Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley said she is looking forward to seeing students for the first time since she took over the reins July 1.
But for Kelley and the school district, welcoming students and staff back to school is not without its challenges, given that the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing down.
“Our top priority is to keep our students, our staff and the community as safe as possible as we begin the school year,” Kelley said. “We are welcoming everybody back to our schools, and we have adapted procedures to minimize the potential for the spread of COVID-19.”
To that end, school district officials have outlined strategies to keep students and staff healthy and safe – from mask wearing to seating charts to daily health screenings.
Classes will be held in person, five days per week. Remote learning is not an option, except in limited situations. It will be made available within 24 hours after a student’s quarantine or isolation period begins because of COVID-19.
However, students who are vaccinated and who can show proof of vaccination will not need to be quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19, school district officials said. It is not a requirement, but school district officials are encouraging all students who are at least 12 years old to be vaccinated.
Students and staff will be required to wear a face mask in school, regardless of vaccination status. There will be mask breaks during the day.
Masks will not be required outdoors as long as students stay six feet apart.
Students will be allowed to remove their face masks when they are eating lunch, which is being provided free of charge to all students. They will be seated six feet apart. Lunch schedules are being adjusted, and there are outdoor seating options to help maintain social distancing.
The district is also implementing seating charts – in the classroom and at lunch – to help in contact tracing when a student has been exposed to COVID-19 or who tests positive for the disease. Contact tracing helps to identify anyone with whom the student has had contact, in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Students will be required to wear a face mask when they are riding on school buses. The bus drivers are being encouraged to open the windows to allow outdoor air to circulate on the bus. Students will be spaced out on the bus, but students in the same family may sit together.
Daily health screenings, which were implemented last year when students began hybrid learning, will continue to be required for students and staff. The form must be filled out before school starts in the morning, and students must be symptom-free when they arrive at school.
School district officials will continue social distancing in the classrooms. All students will sit at least three feet apart.
Reminders will be placed to encourage students and staff to wash their hands and to cover their coughs or sneezes. The district will supply hand soap and hand sanitizer.
Initially, Princeton Middle School and Princeton High School students will not be permitted to go to their hallway lockers or physical education lockers – but athletes will have a special area for their equipment. The ban will be reviewed later in the school year and may be modified, school district officials said.
Field trips will be virtual, at least through the fall. The policy on field trips, as with the ban on visits to hall lockers and physical education lockers, will be reviewed for a possible change.
The district also will continue to limit visitors and large gatherings inside the school buildings. As conditions change, that policy also will be reviewed, school district officials said.