Eastern’s board of ed discusses low in person attendance rate

Meeting subjects also included Wednesday instruction

Eastern Regional High School’s board of education met for a virtual session on March 17, when members discussed the low rate of in person learning and upcoming sports and events.

Although the school brought back students who requested to learn in person for two or four days a week, Superintendent Robert Cloutier said Eastern is operating with 67.5 percent of its students learning remotely. That means only 32.5 percent of students have decided to learn in person.

When asked by Voorhees resident David Weiss during the public comment portion of the meeting whether or not Wednesday will be an in person rather than asynchronous day, Cloutier responded that while discussions are happening, Wednesday most likely will remain asynchronous.

“Wednesday is the most coveted day of the week, I have learned … Overall, when we’ve discussed changing Wednesdays, I’ve received the most pushbacks from students and from teachers,” Cloutier shared. “I’ve even had a student request that next year, when we return to in person (learning), that we add an asynchronous day.

“We are very different from a lot of schools,” he continued. “Some schools in our areas have 80 to 90 percent of students attending in person, and we’re the opposite, so honestly, it’s a little perplexing. A lot of our students are doing well with it, but we’re having those discussions [about possibly changing Wednesday.]”

Weiss’ question was followed up by Voorhees resident Marci Rosenstein, who asked why the board thought numbers for in person learning were so low. The superintendent offered a few theories.

The first — to the surprise of Cloutier — was that many athletes chose not to come back in person. Although he had anticipated their return when school started in September, it seemed to the superintendent that many of them wanted to continue remotely to avoid possible exposure to COVID and having to quarantine for two weeks, which would disrupt their seasons. The second theory was that the students are doing well remotely, compared with the risks of coming to school. The third explanation that was offered was that the learning environment in person was simply not the same.

“It’s not regular school … When I look at schools at 80 to 90 percent (of students learning in person), I’m seeing more classrooms are full. There isn’t the 6-foot distancing and it feels like normal school,” Cloutier observed. “But when you’re in our building, and students are sitting 6 feet apart, wearing masks and with 67 percent remote, the teacher’s attention is on the computer.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that [being at] home versus being in class tips the balance,” he added.

The superintendent anticipates more students will switch to remote learning when the new sports season starts on April 1, because for the first time, three sports schedules will start at once.


In other news:

  • Hemil Patel was honored as Eastern Regional’s Scholar of the Month for March.
  • The senior trip to Disney and the sophomore cotillion were cancelled, but  other events on the calendar, such as senior prom, senior banquet and graduation, are still on.
  • Class officers hope to add a senior trip to Hershey Park in May.
  • Senior-parent meetings will be held on March 24 and April 14 at 7 p.m. via Zoom, to discuss upcoming events.
  • Project Graduation is selling lawn signs for the graduating class for $20.
  • Registration for the spring sports season is open now.

The next Eastern Regional board of education virtual meeting will take place Wednesday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m.