District discusses schedule options as it readies hybrid model

Schools will transition from fully remote learning in November.

With Nov. 9 rapidly approaching, Cherry Hill Public Schools are ready and excited to welcome students back, according to Superintendent Joseph Meloche.

“The only thing that would stop us, as a school district, from launching the hybrid schedule would be a directive from the state of New Jersey or the Department of Health because there’s been an impact on the community health crisis,” he said.

At the Oct. 13 board of education meeting, members and administrators  discussed potential scheduling options as they gear up for the change from fully remote to hybrid instruction.

Since the start of school, the district’s Return to Learn committees have continued to meet and discuss feedback from students and staff. Dr. Farrah Mayhan, director of curriculum, said the district is working hard to make decisions based on what’s best for students and staff.

“We are dealing with a lot of competing voices and really trying to find some middle ground,” she said. 

The district instituted an early-dismissal schedule on Oct. 12 for both middle- and elementary-school students, with the school day to end at 1 p.m. Mayhan said the change was made in an effort to reduce student  screen time. 

“We wanted to address student stamina and their ability to be online for the entirety of the day, and most importantly, we really wanted to have a schedule that would allow us to transition into the hybrid model,” she explained. 

While the district’s youngest students may end their day earlier, board members are engaged in conversations about having the oldest students start later.

As it stands, high-school students report for remote learning at 9:30 a.m.,  with their days ending at 2:30 p.m. Board member Kimberly Friddell said the policy and legislation committee discussed maintaining the later start time when students transition from the fully remote to the hybrid schedule. 

The committee also discussed making the transition to a later start time permanent beyond COVID-19. Meloche informed the committee that in years past, the education department asked local districts to pilot a later  time.

Friddell said by the next board meeting, the committee may bring the  conversation to the board for a full discussion. She said officials  understand the time change would necessitate a conversation with  transportation providers and other affected parties.

Also in line with scheduling, the senior class trips for both Cherry Hill High School East and West have been scheduled. Friddell explained the trips will take place later than in years past, with West scheduled for May 18 to May 22 and East for June 3 through June 7. 

“This was done with COVID in mind, trying to push it out as far as it could go to give these students the best opportunity to be able to attend,” Friddell noted.

While the district hopes students will be able to travel by then, the standard trip insurance does guarantee a 100-percent refund in the event of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state shutdown. Families also can purchase optional insurance that provides a 75-percent reimbursement in the event of an emergency that would prevent a  student from attending the trip.