The Sussex-Wantage Regional School District plans to stick with the hybrid cohort model through the end of the next marking period, Superintendent Michael Gall announced at the Oct. 28 Board of Education meeting.
Gall said the administration’s goal has been to have as many students as possible in school for the longest possible time. But he said there are challenges remaining not limited to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
The rise caused Gov. Phil Murphy to downgrade the state to yellow, which indicates a moderate risk of spread. The Northwest region, of which Sussex County is a part, had been designated green for several months.
“We’re trying to brainstorm in the context of yellow,” Gall said. “Under yellow, we’re paying attention to stuff and still trying to minimize things.”
The kids have been following the recommendations, which has worked in the district’s favor, Gall said. But having both cohorts in the school buildings together is difficult. Providing lunch and distancing will be more difficult, and students must remove their masks to eat.
“When they don’t have masks on, they’re more at a risk of getting Covid,” Gall said.
The district is also studying how the upcoming cold and flu season will affect the district. If there is a Covid case, and enough faculty are forced to quarantine, it could cripple the district.
“I don’t have an answer to that,” Gall said. “Put it in the context of anyone who can’t come to work, it can impact our operation, and you saw that” when Clifton Lawrence school went remote.
Several speakers asked if the district planned to bring students into school for more than two days per week. They said two days was not enough, and that the distractions at home don’t exist at school.
With the second marking period beginning, virtual students – if they gave sufficient notice – were able to move into the hybrid portion.
During most weeks, Wednesday is a remote learning day so that the school buildings can be deep cleaned. There has been a suggestion that the school go to a two-week model, in which one cohort would attend three days one week and then two days the next week, while the other went three days a week.
Board of education member Kenneth Nuss suggested doing the deep cleaning at night to make more days available for in-school learning.
“I don’t want to have that being the reason we don’t bring kids back,” he said.
The board of education president, Nicholas D’Agostino, said everything is under discussion, and that the decision rests with Gall.
“We want to get them all in, but we’re not there yet,” Gall said.