District goes virtual as Camden County COVID cases rise

Administrators will move instruction online through Jan. 15.

Cases of COVID-19 are rising in Camden County, with the county hovering on the precipice of the Red/Very High Risk category.

Cherry Hill schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche sent a letter to families explaining that the district is shifting gears from the hybrid model to fully remote instruction as of Monday, Nov. 30.

At the most recent virtual board of education meeting, Meloche acknowledged frustration that the district’s instructional plans keep changing. He said he understands and shares that frustration.

“That was devastating for some people,” Meloche said. “There were some children who were crushed. There were some families who were crushed. I know that people were planning on that. No one wants to have children back in our schools more than I do.”

Meloche explained that on Friday, Nov. 20, the Camden County Department of Health met with all of the county superintendents to inform them that given the current rate of cases, the county may enter the Red/Very High Risk category status by Thanksgiving. Once the county enters that category, school districts have to shut down in-person instruction, according to the state Department of Health’s current guidelines.

Rather than wait and see if the county reaches the high-risk category, Cherry Hill’s administrators made the decision to move instruction online through Friday, Jan. 15. Families were notified of the decision within two hours of the county health department meeting to give them as much time to plan as possible.

Meloche stressed that he knows remote learning doesn’t work for every child, and that it can be an “incredible amount of pressure” on children to learn by themselves under the watchful eye of a family member or friend. 

The superintendent’s hope continues to be that schools can return students to in-person instruction as soon as the district can ensure their  safety.  Meloche said he would want to bring students back using a tiered approach that has the “most fragile learners” return first. 

“There’s nothing that can replicate the in-school experience for a child to be in a classroom,” he said.

Meloche also acknowledged that as schools navigate the uncharted waters of education in a pandemic, it’s difficult to satisfy the entire community. He added that people have dramatically different needs and home situations  the district is doing its best to work with.

If a student is struggling, the best point of contact for a parent is his or her classroom teacher, Meloche explained. If that person is unable to help, parents should reach out to the child’s counselor or principal.

“I’m not going to tell you that we’re going to have all the fixes; we are not,” Meloche admitted. “We can talk about it and what we can do to work forward, and how we can try to address situations as they arise.” 

To stay up to date on the district, visit its website at https://www.chclc.org