Hundreds of NJ schools stay remote, many delay return to buildings
More and more schools keep pushing back their return to classrooms as districts continue to deal with the pandemic.
Just 77 school districts across the state were offering full in-person instruction as of Jan. 4, while another 339 districts have started 2021 in an all-remote model with no immediate change in sight.
In Middlesex County, Woodbridge public schools announced they are all-remote until March 1. At that point, students will return to a hybrid model, which provides two days of in-person instruction per week, based on a cohort system.
“This is based on the diminished classroom capacity while keeping students 6 feet apart. The rooms that used to hold 25-30 students can now only hold 10-12,” Woodbridge schools Superintendent Robert Zega said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5.
In Atlantic County, Vineland public schools have been all-remote since before Thanksgiving, and initially had the goal of returning to hybrid instruction in January.
Vineland schools Superintendent Mary Gruccio said over that time, the district spiked from being in the “high risk” category to “very high risk,” and so would remain all-remote until mid-February, with the hope of returning to hybrid instruction on Feb. 16.
“As the pandemic has worsened in our community I am hopeful that you will understand that this decision has been made to keep the safety of our students and staff as our top priority,” Gruccio said in a written update on Jan. 8.
Atlantic City public schools also are on a full remote instruction plan through the end of February, as announced by Superintendent Barry Caldwell on Jan. 15.
As for Edison public schools, the district on Jan. 11 delayed a return to hybrid instruction until Feb. 1, the township’s start of the third marking period.
Edison Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen, cited “continued increases in positive COVID-19 cases both nationally and locally.” The return for students who select the option will be four-days in-person, with Wednesday all remote.
Trenton has pushed any return to in-person classes even further, as city public school students and staff will remain all-remote until May 3. In an update posted Jan. 11, Acting Superintendent of Schools Alfonso Q. Llano said the decision was made in consultation with the Department of Health, local health providers, and the district's medical inspector.
The state’s largest school district, Newark, has extended its all-remote instruction until at least April 12, as announced in early January.
Paterson, another of the state's largest school districts, also has extended all-remote instruction until at least March 1, as announced back in December.
Parents have voiced frustration with the continued impact of the pandemic at Board of Education meetings statewide and in community social media groups, even as the entire state remained at a high level of COVID-19 Activity Level as of Thursday.
The last time any region of New Jersey was not considered at a high level of coronavirus transmission was before Thanksgiving, when southeast New Jersey was “moderate” within the week ending Nov. 14.
Another 348 school districts have continued a hybrid model in-person and remote instruction, while 47 districts were using some combination of in-person, hybrid or all-remote across multiple buildings, according to remarks by Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 4.
Toms River has been running on a hybrid model “indefinitely,” according to township Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella.
“We're in constant communication with Ocean County Health Department and are making decisions on a school-by-school basis," he said.
The model allows for each student in Toms River to receive in-person instruction two days a week, as divided into two groups or “cohorts,” with Friday an all-remote day.
As of Thursday, two Toms River elementary schools had transitioned to an all-remote model of instruction until, respectively, Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, when they would return to hybrid learning.
Cherry Hill public schools returned to a hybrid model of instruction on Tuesday, which allows for each student to attend in-person two days a week, as split into two groups, with Mondays as all-remote instruction.
In Somerset County, the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional school district has been operating on a hybrid schedule, though as of Sunday, Bridgewater-Raritan High School switched to all remote instruction until February based on at least two new confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra.
On Thursday, the state reported 4,095 new COVID-19 cases based on PCR test results, another 1,184 new probable cases based on rapid test results, and 98 new confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
Also reported as of Thursday, the state has seen 475,704 total vaccine doses administered so far.
Educators continue to wait for the state to rollout the rest of its 1B eligibility group, which state health officials repeatedly have said is contingent on additional vaccine supply being delivered by the federal government.