Black Horse Pike district to move to remote-only instruction

Change follows recommendation from county health department

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun

The Black Horse Pike Regional School District Board of Education had its monthly session on Nov. 19 at Highland Regional High School, where it announced a move to remote-only instruction from Monday, Nov. 30 to Friday, Jan. 8

Superintendent Brian Repici presented the board and public with information about the COVID-19 Statewide Activity Level Timeline used by the state Department of Health to monitor the virus’ current transmission level across all counties in the state.

Repici noted that the activity level in the southwest portion of the state, where Camden County is located on the chart, had been labeled low or moderate since May 16. But as of the most recent report, the area is now in the high category due to rising positive COVID cases.

“The case rate is currently 38.63 (per 100,000 people) in the southwest region,” said Repici. “To give you some reference as to whether or not that’s increased, in the middle of October it was 10, so yes the numbers in Camden County, especially, are increasing and that’s concerning to the department of health.”

Repici said following the activity report, the Camden County Department of Health sent a communication to all county schools that they move to a remote-only learning model for the foreseeable future.

Repici also provided insight into how COVID has affected the three schools within the regional district, with nearly two dozen students and staff having tested positive in recent weeks, causing others to self-quarantine or isolate.

“Internally since Nov. 6, the Black Horse Pike Regional School District has experienced in its three schools about 20 positive cases,” Repici explained. “Now, not all of those students or staff were in school: A lot of them were remote, and the concern isn’t necessarily that transmission is believed to be from school.”

Repici also noted that the district currently has approximately 110 staff members out due to a “myriad of reasons,” which can include being positive for COVID-19, quarantining due to being a close contact, personal leave and numerous other reasons.

“For those reasons, many other school districts in Camden County and in other districts have decided to already go to a remote-learning model,” he said. “As those districts start to transition into a remote-learning model, we have a lot of staff that have child-care issues as a result, and so that increases the number of staff that ask us to now take COVID-19 relief due to child-care concerns.

For those reasons, and others, Repici discussed the option of moving to a remote-only model with the schools’ physician, school nurses and other district administrators.

With the remote-only model set to end Friday, Jan. 8, Repici said returning to in-person instruction is contingent upon the recommendation of the county health and education departments regarding a safe return.

“That is, of course, dependent upon the department of health and the department of education and local COVID-19 cases, so we’re going to follow the data and make informed decisions about whether or not that is a prudent return date,” Repici advised.

While the decision to go remote only did not go before the board of education or have a formal vote, Board President Kevin MeElroy made sure to emphasize he has the full support of the board regarding the move.

“We have discussed this in length with Dr. Repici and took it under advisement from his staff,” McElroy added. “As a board, we’re in full support of going to a remote-only model based on his plan and the safety and welfare of our students and our staff.” 

In other news:

  • The NJSIA pushed back the start date for all winter seasons  due to new executive orders from Gov. Phil Murphy and rising COVID cases across the state.
  •  The district received both a Coronavirus Relief Fund Grant, in the amount of $255,564, and its portion of the CARES Grant, $448,209, that both went toward offsetting costs used by the district for supplies, materials, additional and staff and more pertaining to COVID.