Superintendent Smith updates community on school plans under COVID

The following letter was sent to Hopewell Valley Regional School District families by email today, March 4.

Dear HVRSD Families,

I am writing to provide you an update on our return to school planning.
Like many of you, we are encouraged by the decrease in COVID cases and the expansion of vaccines to include educators; however, it is important that we continue with our precautions to prevent the spread of the virus in our community.  Our cautious but sensible COVID approach has served us well and we are working diligently to safely return all students to an in-person program. We thank you for your continued support and patience. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our teachers, staff, custodians, nurses, and administrators who have done their best to support our efforts over the past year.

What is our current status?

  • CHS – On Monday, March 8, all in-person students will attend school five days a week. Currently, approximately 50% of CHS students are attending in-person. To assist us in our planning, remote parents will be surveyed later this month and asked to commit their intentions through the end of the school year. 
  • TMS – At Timberlane Middle School, since January approximately one hundred additional students have transitioned to in-person learning. Currently, almost 70% of our students are participating in in-person instruction creating a challenge for combining cohorts while maintaining CDC social distancing guidelines. We are exploring options to include as many students as possible. To assist us in our planning, remote parents will be surveyed later this month and asked to commit to remote learning through the end of the school year. 
  • Elementary – Our elementary students have been attending in-person, five days a week, since January. Currently, depending on the school, 50 – 80% of our elementary students are attending in-person. On Friday, our elementary principals will send a survey to our elementary remote families to determine their interest in returning this school year. We anticipate any additional in-person students returning in mid-April. Please note:  Due to social distancing limitations, we cannot guarantee remote students who return to in-person instruction will be placed in their home school and/or with their current teacher. 
  • Remote learning will remain an option for the rest of this school year for families who want it.  

How and when will we decide to expand to full-day?

As I have shared previously, our goal remains the safe return to a five-day, full-day program for every in-person student who would like to return; however, we will do so only when it is safe for our students and staff.

  • We continue to rely on district, local, and State COVID case data, guidance from the Department of Education, our department of health, and school physician to make decisions about expanding school times.
  • Vaccinating our staff remains one of the biggest challenges in our return to normal and we are hopeful this will occur soon.  We have applied to be both a fixed facility and provider site to assist in the distribution to our staff.
  • Over the next month, our return to school committee, in coordination with our department of health and our school physician, will work to finalize plans to increase the length of the school day, including serving lunch and long-term planning for the return of all students to a full-day schedule. Details and target dates will be shared once we finalize our plans and in-person numbers. 

Spring Break/Quarantining and COVID Testing

We are in consultation with our Department of Health and our school physician, regarding the potential for a one-week move to full-remote learning after spring break due to out-of-state travel by students and staff.  In the past, this move has helped to mitigate the possibility of additional spread in our schools and community. Any update will be provided as soon as possible. 

Quarantining. HVRSD is reevaluating our 14-day out-of-state quarantine policy to align with the CDC guidelines.  Details will be shared prior to spring break.

In-District COVID TestingAs part of our return to school planning, we have partnered with the NJEA to provide regular COVID testing for interested staff, students, and community members. A sign-up form will be distributed for weekly testing to assist with meeting quarantine guidelines. Details will be shared shortly.

We are all hoping for a return to normal as soon as we can safely do so.  As we progress through the steps outlined above, we will continue to provide timely updates.

Sincerely 

Thomas A. Smith, Ed.D.Superintendent of Schoolshe/his/himthomassmith@hvrsd.org

Mental Health Reminders
Please take the time to speak to your children about their mental wellness and any issues they may be facing.  As a district, we will continue our work with teachers, school counselors, and staff to support the mental health and wellness of our students. Additional metal health resources for our families include the following:

  • Our district website has a Help and Hope link with mental health and prevention resources.  
  • Please contact our tip line via telephone 609-737-4000 x 8477 (TIPS) or email tips@hvrsd.org (Emails to staff may not be answered in a timely manner over the summer).  For an emergency, please call 911.  
  • Our counseling department has developed a list of resources for families. This, as well as additional information, is available from our district website. If you need any support, please reach out to your building principal or school counselor; we are here to help.
  • Starting Tuesday, January 19, our counselors and student assistant counselors will begin brief presentations highlighting counseling supports for students in grades 6 – 12.  

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