Frequently Asked Questions about Opening with Confidence
Click on the questions below to view additional information on Hunterdon Central's reopening plan.
- How will the school ensure social distancing and masking?
- What will remote learning look like for all students after dismissal at noon, and all day on Wednesdays?
- How will the school handle quarantine and isolation?
- How long will the hybrid scenario last, and how will the school move forward toward more normal operations?
- How will the school conduct symptom screening?
- How will sports and clubs work?
- How will Central support students who take vocational classes at Polytech?
- What kind of face covering should students and staff wear?
Our reopening plan details specific steps, like distancing and masking, as important to mitigating the public health threat of COVD-19.
All students and staff are required to be masked at all times while on campus, except under specific circumstances outlined in guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Department of Health. This guidance was recently included in Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 175.
Under the guidance and orders that we have received, we have reduced our attendance to 50% to increase social distancing. Schools target 6 feet of distance at all times, but this is not always practicable. At times when we do not have 6 feet between individuals, universal masking mitigates transmission risks. We will also utilize recommended seating arrangements (for example, having all desks in a classroom face the same direction) in order to mitigate any potential spread. In every context, we are confident that our steps will ensure that we are prepared to be in compliance with all public health directives.
Students must remain mindful of their important role in contributing to what must be a community-wide effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. In the event that a student refuses to wear a mask or observe all possible distancing, we may need to move that student to our full remote program.
We are working with teachers to reflect on community feedback from last spring’s experience in remote learning. We note that parents and students greatly valued our flexible approach for providing students the opportunity to work at their own pace. At the same time, however, we recognize that this approach created additional need for students to focus and schedule their work.
Teachers in each of our departments will continue to work to perfect the balance between flexibility and structure in this unique learning environment, with the recognition that each family will need to balance the different needs of children’s education with work and other family needs.
After dismissal on in-person days, students will have the opportunity to connect with teachers and counselors in individualized meetings, participate in scheduled learning activities offered by our academic departments, benefit from wellness and other programming, catch up on unfinished work from the day, and much more. We recognize that students will need time to return home and eat lunch, and that our teachers will need time to eat, prepare lessons, and connect with remote students as well. Flexibility will continue to guide us in these afternoon blocks.
Remote Wednesdays are not “days off.” For Wednesdays, we are building a schedule to ensure that all students are moving forward in their education. The activities that teachers offer will differ based on the needs of the curricula they teach and will run the gamut from live activities that require student participation at certain times, to more flexibly-scheduled activities that students can approach at their own pace. We do not believe that a one-size-fits-all model of instruction is appropriate for all of our students or courses at Central, or that it takes advantage of the benefits of moving education beyond the restrictions of a bell schedule and four classroom walls.
Our nurses are working with our district physician and other experts to convert one of our team rooms into a comfortable and private isolation and screening space for students. Students who present with concerning symptoms will be moved to this space, go through screening, and, in most cases, move into an isolation area to await pickup.
We will work with the Department of Health to ensure that the best and most comprehensive contact tracing can occur in the event of a positive case of COVID-19. Our plan details conditions for students to return to school after symptoms of illness, a positive test result, and exposure.
A staff member presenting with symptoms will need to leave campus and follow public health guidelines for return to work.
A student or staff member presenting with symptoms does not automatically trigger quarantine of additional staff or students. The Department of Health will determine when quarantine is necessary and will determine who needs to go under quarantine. We do recognize the possibility that a positive case may result in required quarantine for many students and staff in classrooms, on a bus, and/or on a team or in other in-person activities with the individual who has COVID-19.
School closure up to 14 days could be necessary if the Department of Health determines that we are experiencing an outbreak. Public health guidelines indicate that an outbreak could be occurring if the school experiences as few as 2 cases that are unrelated. In the event of such a closure, all students would move to remote instruction for the duration of the closure.
Recent guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health offers more information on their protocols for quarantine and school closure.
Our plan details steps forward from our current hybrid model. Recently, the New Jersey Department of Health announced a regional classification approach that we will use, in cooperation with the Department of Health, to determine our ability to add more in-person time and/or more in-person students. Unfortunately, we have no sense of when we would be able to make any adjustments. We must also note the possibility of a worsening public health situation that would require us to move to a fully remote model for all students.
We are eager to move closer to normal operations as quickly as we can. Social distancing and other requirements will continue to draw boundaries around our ability to increase the number of students or the amount of time for in-person instruction. As long as 6’ is required for those moments when students remove their masks, lunch presents too many challenges for us, even at 50% attendance.
If we are not able to move to an instructional model of all students every day, and/or an all day schedule for shifts of 50% of our students, we would hope to at least convert our Wednesday remote day to an in-person instruction day if conditions continue to improve. In such a model, Wednesday might alternate between Group 1 and Group 2 in each successive week, affording each group an additional 4 hours of in-person instruction in each 2-week period.
The United States Centers for Disease Control advises schools to refrain from testing, on-site temperature checking, and on-site symptom screening for all students and staff. Each of these, however, plays important roles across our entire community.
We will continue to follow the guidance of the Department of Health in advising and/or requiring testing when necessary. Currently, testing is seen as an important tool to confirm or rule out a suspected infection. Testing, however, yields a single snapshot that is potentially out-of-date very soon after the moment the test is done. We do not currently have any plans to require testing for all students or staff, but note that public health and medical organizations in Hunterdon County, and all of New Jersey, are working to increase the availability of rapid-result testing.
Temperature checking and symptom screening are also limited as snapshots of a single moment in time. They suffer from further limitations in the fact that someone may have and spread COVID-19 but show no symptoms. Temperature checking and symptom screening are most effective if done on a very regular basis.
Guidance indicates that symptom screening and temperature checking are among other steps that we all must take as a community to combat the spread of the virus. Like masking, social distancing, and personal hygiene, daily temperature checking and symptom screening requires the full cooperation of students and families. Each day, parents will need to submit an online “Symptom Free Assurance” form, indicating that their child is free from symptoms (including fever), has not recently been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, has not recently traveled to an impact area, and more. If we do not receive a form from a student, we will need to remove that student from in-person instruction to conduct a screening, including a temperature check. A student missing a form on a regular basis may be moved to fully remote instruction.
Athletics are governed by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), which has outlined guidance and timelines for summer work, with a target of September 14 for the beginning of practice. Guidelines from NJSIAA and the State of New Jersey, however, are not yet clear on how competition will actually look in some high-contact sports like football. We will communicate that guidance as soon as we receive it.
We do know that locker rooms and other spaces prone to crowding will not be available at the opening of school. We are not allowing the use of weight rooms until we have clearer guidance on their safe use and sanitization. In addition, we regret that we will be unable to provide transportation to and from practices, as a result of busing demands across our region.
As a result, students will need to secure their own transportation to and from practices after the end of the full school day and will need to arrive in appropriate dress and with appropriate equipment to participate.
Clubs will move to a remote format as much as possible, with advisors working with students to convert club activities. We are working with advisors in Marching Band, Dance Team, and other activities to determine the best ways to provide compelling experiences for students involved in those activities.
The Hunterdon County Health Department has released guidance on acceptable and unacceptable face coverings. Please view an infographic here:
Acceptable face coverings include disposable surgical masks, which are widely available, and cloth masks.Students with unacceptable face coverings will need to change them before taking part in any in-person instruction. We have a limited supply of disposable masks for staff and students who have an unacceptable mask and need a replacement for the day.