Lenape district will return for five day, in person school in March

Board also approves backup dates for Class of ‘21 events

The dreams of Lenape high school students for a “normal” school year just got one step closer to reality.

All schools in the Lenape Regional High School District will reopen for five day, in person instruction on March 1, Superintendent Carol Birnbohm announced at a board of education meeting on Feb. 17.

The school day won’t be entirely normal. The district is beginning its reopening with half days for all students and will consider revamping class schedules to fit a shorter day. But this is the first time students from cohorts A and B, divided alphabetically by last name, will attend school at the same time this year.

“This is just a natural progression of us being prepared for that very next step,” Birnbohm told the board.

Seneca and Shawnee High School’s student council presidents and vice presidents gave a presentation on what school has looked like so far this year. They showed photos of their COVID-19 preventative measures, including one way hallways and QR code check-ins to the nurse and principal’s office.

The district will continue those practices as students return to school. About 45 percent of its students have chosen to learn remotely, up 25 percent from the start of the year in September. Birnbohm said the lower number of in person students made socially distanced, five day school possible.

Thomas Rebstock, Shawnee’s senior class president, returned to school five days a week this month.

“It’s a little better for me, because I can enjoy that school experience that I’ve been missing,” he said. “I haven’t seen the kids in cohort A since March of last year, so it’s definitely fun to see them again.”

The district will pilot the new program until spring break in April, when a committee called Operation Open LRHSD will reevaluate class schedules. 

The board also voted to create backup dates for Cherokee High School’s senior prom and Shawnee’s 2021 class trip. Despite their senior year looking different during the pandemic, student representatives said the staff at Shawnee and Seneca have found ways to get them involved.

At Shawnee, teachers created a senior scavenger hunt, where students received prizes if they found hidden items between class periods. The school has also continued to host its spirit weeks, which include dress up days.

Seneca Student Council President Sabrina Capoli said the council is trying to make the school’s Golden Eagle Pageant, a senior fundraising event, happen outdoors in the spring. Seneca has also continued its spirit week, where in person and remote students wore crazy hats and Hawaiian attire to class. 

“It helps us create that feeling of optimism that hopefully that the year would progress,” Capoli explained.