BLOT GRAPHIC BY KARA PETROSINO
In March 2020, schools around the world shut down and began operating virtually. Now, one year later, schools are gradually returning to a new normal.
Since October, students have been grouped into cohorts in order to minimize the number of students in school. Cohort A attends school on Monday and Tuesday and Cohort B on Thursday and Friday. As of mid-April, students have returned to in-person learning on Wednesdays. Cohorts alternate having in-person instruction on a weekly basis, allowing students to be in the classroom for three days per week, every other week.
As the year progresses and guidelines change, some school districts have started to return to in-person learning five days a week. The MCVSD reopening committee continues to meet to discuss COVID-19-related issues and case numbers to determine their next plan of action.
They look at the COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) score, COVID-19 cases for the district and the state, people’s wants and the precautions to decide what happens. The superintendent then takes the committee’s comments and thoughts and gives them to the Board of Education. The Board of Education looks at those recommendations, determines if the cases are still high, and looks at what other districts are doing within Monmouth County.
“It’s a balance between parents’ concerns and wants and the safety of students and teachers,” said chemistry teacher and committee member Erin Wheeler.
With other high schools returning to in-person education five days per week, students at CHS and other MCVSD schools wonder when it will be their turn.
“A lot of people have a lot of different opinions so it’s hard to fit everyone’s expectations,” said freshman Alex Kinsey of Avon. “I would definitely love to go back full time.”
The Board of Education has the final say in creating the plans for the district to return to a more normal schedule as vaccination numbers continue to increase.
Because Monmouth County as a whole is still seeing a high level of cases, it is more difficult for the MCVSD schools to reopen safely. “The goal always is being in person,” said Principal James Gleason. “Everyone wants to be together, and education is much better in the classroom.”
As guidelines change and cases decline, the district is making progress toward having students in the classroom more than two days a week. Wednesdays were previously shortened virtual days, but that recent change is evidence of the district’s progress.
“Taking all the precautions and recommendations, this is just the first phase,” Gleason said.
Wheeler said returning to in-person instruction on Wednesdays is a move welcomed by students and staff alike.
“I think that everyone is excited to be going into school more,” Wheeler said.
The district sent out a survey to parents in February to collect their preferences for the rest of the year. About 1,000 parents answered, with the majority expressing that they would be willing to send their kids to school for more than two days per week with the right precautions.
As students and staff begin to receive the vaccine, progress may come sooner than expected. At the end of April, the district reconvened to discuss case numbers and look over how the return to in-person Wednesdays has progressed.
“By mid-May for the four final weeks of school, we are hoping to go back for five days, but nothing is definite,” Wheeler said.
While every step forward is progress, the district’s main goal is to maintain the safety of staff and students.
“We are very, very safe. For the past six months we haven’t had an in-school transmission. We want to keep it that way,” said district head nurse Dorothy Condon. “The only way we can go back is if the state’s cases go down.” While going to school three days a week is only the first phase of returning to fully in-person learning, the district is determined to gradually return to normal while maintaining a safe learning environment for faculty and students.