District forms group to advise on fall reopening of schools

Committee will seek input from faculty, parents and students

File photo (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

The Lenape Regional High School District is not waiting for state guidelines to consider the fall reopening of schools.

Guidance from the state Department of Education was expected by June 24. Its delay has prompted district Superintendent Carol Birnbohm to establish a group that will analyze and recommend reopening procedures. The group, announced during the June 24 board of education meeting, will consist of existing district committees and will seek input from faculty. Parent and student feedback on the successes and shortfalls of remote learning will also be sought.

“Since we don’t know what school will be mandated to look like, the committee will be charged with developing plans for a variety of situations ranging from 100 percent virtual, or bringing in a percentage of students on a rotating basis with parallel virtual and in-person instruction,” Birnbohm explained.

In the past, fall school plans were discussed and finalized in April and May. Along with guidance from the department of education, the district relies on the state health department for data and recommendations. As of deadline, it remained unclear if social distancing, Personal Protective Equipment and other sanitization mandates would be mandated in primary education districts.

Birnbohm also revealed that about 60 percent of the district’s graduating seniors participated in the diploma-to-door delivery program. A 500-person cap on outdoor graduations has the district planned for multiple ceremonies throughout the day on July 16.

Architects in the district were tasked by the administration with devising outdoor graduation plans that would allow two guests per student while maintaining a contactless celebration. All four properties (Lenape, Seneca, Cherokee and Shawnee high schools) have the capacity for spaced-out ceremonies on track fields and stadiums.

Board Secretary and Treasurer Connie Stewart said in a phone interview that the district applied for a federal CARES Act grant on May 21. The state approved the application for $151,841 the next day, and the funds are intended for the purchase of educational technology — including Chromebooks for students without remote access — and supplies to clean and sanitize facilities.

“The cleaning supplies for COVID-19 are astronomical, and it’s going to get worse between the gloves, the sanitization and all of the wipes, hand sanitizers, masks and things of that nature,” Stewart said.

The board of education holds its next meeting July 15. Further details on an in-person or virtual session can be viewed by visiting LRHSD.org.

“One thing is certain: We’ll work hard to ensure all plans provide equitable access to education and follow the health and safety guidelines to provide the safest possible programs for our students and staff,” Birnbohm promised.