For the first time since March, students and staff at Spring Lake Heights School will meet in person Tuesday for a full day of learning.

And that's the plan five days a week moving forward.

The preschool-through-grade 8 facility has had teachers officially in the building since Thursday. The one-building district is one of only 70 or so districts in the Garden State that have decided to start the 2020 academic year fully face to face during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We just last week added the desk barriers to every one of our desks," superintendent/principal John Spalthoff told New Jersey 101.5. "We've got walk-through temperature scanners at two entrances."

Certain precautions are required by the state, such as face coverings for students, but families do have the option to learn virtually due to COVID-19 concerns.

So on the first day of school, Spalthoff expects 78% of students — as long as they're healthy — to walk through the doors. The other segment plans to at least start the year online.

"We're hopeful that we can show them over the next several months that we've created a safe and healthy environment, and we can get back to the in-person instruction of all of our students," Spalthoff said.

According to an update Wednesday afternoon by Gov. Phil Murphy, 68 districts have been approved to start the year with a model primarily utilizing in-person learning — many are one-building operations like Spring Lake Heights School. Most districts, more than 400, are going with a hybrid model of in-school and online learning, while more than 240 are starting the year fully remote until they can get their health and safety protocols in line with state standards.

Spalthoff said his school was fortunate to undergo a $10 million referendum project last summer that welcomed more space and a brand new HVAC system.

"I'm not worried about the kids overheating in masks and not having proper air flow," he said.

The school also managed to arrange its cafeteria, which has now been moved to the gymnasium, to fit 120 kits six feet apart.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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