Both Timberlane Middle School and Hopewell Valley Central High School have transitioned to a hybrid schedule this week.
The two schools are preparing to return for full day in-person learning starting next week.
The hybrid schedule began on Jan. 18 and goes through Jan. 21. During the hybrid schedule this week students are attending the middle school and high school in the morning.
They then return to their homes for lunch and remote class instruction occurs in the afternoon following lunch.
Beginning next week on Jan. 24, both schools return to full days of in-person instruction.
“Our intent and our expectation barring calamity again is that all students return to in person learning on their regular schedule on Jan. 24, lunch included,” said Rosetta Treece, superintendent of Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) in a video message to the school community. “Many folks have asked us what the rationale is for the half days. Why the half days at the high school and middle school and not at the elementary schools?”
According to the district administration, there are concerns regarding lunch with high school and middle school students.
“With a significant number of cases we still have reported and under reported at the high school and middle school and the fact that both buildings have what is called a unit lunch, every student in the buildings eat lunch at the same time across the buildings unmasked,” Treece said. “Now we try to keep them six feet apart, which is difficult and we need staff members to monitor in those locations across the buildings.”
The schools are short staffed and the middle school and high school had to go remote in previously to begin 2022 due to staff COVID-19 cases, which made it difficult for the schools to reopen to in-person learning.
Along with the low staff, the district has not had consistent reporting in who has COVID-19 and who does not have the virus.
“While we are transitioning back to in-person, we want to be very careful not bring in large groups of students into that unit lunch, cafeteria, gym and hallway experience,” Treece said. “Our contact tracers are very stressed out right now and we have limited resources in that regard. Any collapse in that system will cause us to go back into remote learning. We do not want to do that.”
Along with elementary schools remaining open for in-person learning, all sports will be in person for the middle school and high school. However, afterschool enrichment clubs will continue to be temporarily remote.
“Since the beginning of this year I have communicated and we have communicated as a school organization that our primary goal is to keep your children in person learning as much as possible,” she said. “That is the expectation of the State of New Jersey and what is best for your kids. It is important that we continue the social and emotional learning that we do in school alongside the academics.”
Treece stressed that students had experienced learning loss after the 2020-21 school year in which the district was fully remote for long stretches of time.
“We know some children did not thrive in that environment and they developed school phobias and/or experienced isolation and depression and sadness,” she said. “So that long extended period of remote learning was not good for our children. We know that when students did finally return in person this year, many of them struggled socially with their other students and had a hard time readjusting to school behaviors and norms.”
According to the administration, the school buildings are safe and efforts with school ventilation systems, facilities, masking, hygiene and social distancing are effective.
The only students in the school district who will be provided remote instruction following a return to in-person learning for TMS and HVCHS will be those who are medically challenged and with a doctor’s note from a specialist who is treating them for their disabilities or special needs; students isolating due to being a close contact to someone who has COVID-19; think they have COVID-19 and students who do have COVID-19.
HVRSD consists of six schools: HVCHS, TMS, Toll Gate Grammar School, Hopewell Elementary School, Bear Tavern Elementary School and Stony Brook Elementary School.