Cherry Hill schools prepared to reopen with multiple learning models

Families can choose between hybrid or fully remote instruction.

Students at James H. Johnson will have quite a different school day when they pass through the elementary school entrance this year.

The end of summer is rapidly approaching, so the time has come for Cherry Hill families to make a decision about what school will look like for their children this fall.

With the district pursuing a hybrid model of education, families can choose to send their children to school for in-person instruction two days a week, or they can opt for a fully remote option.

At the July 28 meeting of the Cherry Hill Board of Education, Superintendent Joseph Meloche provided a detailed overview on what each educational model will look like. He stressed, however, that the plan is subject to change at any time based on updates and compliance requirements from the state. 

The district plans to operate on a hybrid schedule, with students receiving in-person instruction two days a week and remote learning for three. Students will be split into two cohorts and will attend in-person instruction with the same cohort on either Tuesday and Thursday, or Wednesday and Friday. The goal of that model is to cut the number of students in half on a daily basis. 

On the days when students are not physically in school, hybrid students will engage in asynchronous instruction. Students will log into Google Classroom to retrieve their lessons and activities that must be completed and submitted for the day.

Students participating in fully remote instruction will still be assigned to a cohort. On days when those cohorts are physically in school, each student will participate in synchronous instruction by watching a livestream of the class. On the days the child’s cohort learns remotely, he or she will follow the remote instruction activities and lessons. 

On Mondays, the entire district will have a “cooperative learning day.” All students will be on remote instruction for four hours. Both hybrid students and fully remote students will virtually meet as a whole in order to establish continuity of learning, set the tone for the week and enable teachers to outline upcoming assignments.

All students and staff are required to wear a facial covering over their mouth and nose at all times in a school building or on the bus. Every student and staff member will be provided with a reusable mask at the start of the school year, which Meloche said will be made possible by philanthropic community donations. 

Parents will receive a checklist and are asked to conduct an at-home screening for any COVID-19 symptoms before sending their children to school. The Camden County Department of Health and Human Services will provide screening guidelines for the district.

Meloche said the district’s nurses have been working to get Cherry Hill enrolled in a program where families can receive a free thermometer. Information about that program will be forthcoming for families who are in need of a thermometer.

Cherry Hill families were emailed a survey on July 28 and asked to complete it via Genesis, the district’s student management portal. The survey asks families to select their child’s mode of instruction, transportation choice, whether they need a school-issued device and if they have internet connectivity. 

As of the board meeting, the district already had around 1,400 responses, according to Meloche. Approximately 1,000 of families surveyed selected the hybrid model, while 400 chose the fully-remote option.

The district asks that whatever option families choose, they commit until Jan. 29, the end of the first half of the school year. Meloche explained that  request is necessary because the district is building cohorts “very purposely,” striving for a balance of gender, ethnicity, race and number of students in each class. 

Meloche stressed that families are not locked in for the full school year. The district will announce in December if it will continue with the current model or alter instructional methods for the second half of the school year. 

Families have until Aug. 4 to complete the survey. On Aug. 10, they will receive an email letting them know to which cohort their child or children have been assigned.

The district is also readying itself in the event schools are ordered to conduct full remote learning again, but officials stressed that instruction would look vastly different than it did last spring, when schools were closed by the state because of COVID-19.

Meloche said current health and safety data the district has received  indicate fully remote learning may be inevitable during the school year. 

“We will be prepared for full remote learning if that becomes a reality,” he said.

For more information on the district’s reopening plan, visit https://www.chclc.org/returntolearn