A sudden influx of students who have been confirmed as COVID-19 positive has pushed Haddonfield Memorial High School from the hybrid educational model it has embraced since September back into a 100-percent virtual model.
On Sunday Nov. 15, Haddonfield School District Superintendent Chuck Klaus issued a letter to all district parents, revealing that, effective Monday, Nov. 16, the high school would revert to all-virtual learning through Nov. 30.
The communique read, in part, “We have had to revisit the decision communicated yesterday as we received information about an additional positive test with no contact tracing to previous cases, several potential positive cases awaiting test results, and staffing concerns.
”Keeping the safety and wellness of our students and staff as our top priority, we believe implementing the full virtual is the optimum way to proceed. Specific details regarding the full virtual schedule, material pick up, and scheduled in-person meetings will be coming from (HMHS Principal Tammy) McHale.
”This decision was not arrived at easily. We hoped to stay the course and continue to offer in-person instruction; however, it became evident that the best course of action is to address the current spread by taking these precautionary steps. Over the next 14 days we hope to see lower numbers of COVID+ results at HMHS so that we will be able to return to the cohort model on November 30.
“If the numbers continue to remain at their current level, we will have to reconsider the return date. To that end, it is imperative that our students follow all safety measures while not in school.”
In a conversation with the Sun one day later, Klaus said the decision was made to shift the high school to 100 percent virtual instruction not just based on the increased number of positives, but also due to how fast they came in.
“We suddenly were hit by 15 cases within eight days and seven came in over the last four days. Between that, and the number of teachers that had to quarantine, we played it safe,” he admitted.
Klaus also stated that another factor in the decision to move to all virtual was the number of students who had recently chosen to disengage from hybrid learning and return to the 100-percent virtual offering.
According to a tweet from Borough of Haddonfield on Nov. 15, there were two cases the day prior of confirmed COVID-19 positive results from residents in their teens, and, the day the tweet was issued, four female residents in their teens and one male in his teens also tested positive.
Per Klaus, the surge increases the number of positives in the high-school age range to 16 since classes began on Sept. 8.
Klaus additionally stated he would like to have a decision made on whether or not virtual learning would continue into December before Thanksgiving, but a big indicator on that is if there are more cases coming into the district in that brief window.
“The 14 days we’re out as of now, corresponds to the number of cases that just came in. If we got, say, four more by this Thursday, we’d have to look about extending that restriction to at least Dec. 6,” Klaus said. “It’s a tricky thing because these numbers are very fluid.”
The district is also planning to keep any decisions on the health and welfare of the elementary and middle schools separate from that of the high school, since confirmed positives in the lower end of the school-age range have been low.
“It would be easy to do (a shutdown and move to all-virtual at all grade levels) as a district but we are looking at the numbers as they come in and the ages they come in, and right now that’s trending into the high school range,” Klaus added.