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Eastern superintendent outlines return to school plans

Classes will be back to normal, with adjustments for state mandates

For the first time in more than a year, an Eastern Regional High School Board of Education meeting was held fully in person on June 16.

Although the board had previously met over Zoom — in keeping with a hybrid model that allowed meetings to be recorded and uploaded to YouTube — remaining meetings will be fully in person.

During his superintendent’s report, Robert Cloutier announced that schools had 45 percent of students attending in person and 55 percent attending remotely.

Later, Cloutier outlined plans for safely reopening in the fall.

“It’s meant to be a document that is revised as we learn more about the conditions for September,” he explained

Because the state has ended the state of emergency that allowed students the option to learn remotely, fall classes will be held just as they were prior to the pandemic.

“We have to plan for a full, five day week schedule,” Cloutier said. “Full day, with lunch. Everything that normally existed before the pandemic will return at the start of September unless conditions change.”

With school at full capacity, the district will no longer enforce social distancing. Masks will be optional and not required unless mandated. Schools will not conduct temperature checks, either. Cloutier said it’s possible the district may continue health screenings if required.

“Only mandated mitigation measures will be implemented, so if it’s not mandated, it will not be implemented in the school district,” he emphasized.

As of June 21, masks will become optional for summer programs too, thanks to Gov. Phil Murphy’s heat exemption for the mask mandate.

Cloutier said contact tracing will continue as needed and district employees will regularly clean buildings and offer hand sanitizer. Although school will be back to normal, the district will retain its Zoom capabilities and provide appropriate personal protective equipment in case things change next year.

Following up on a question asked at the last board meeting, the superintendent also provided an update on the Freshman Transition Program. Thanks to the additional grant money the district received, the usual $35 fee will be waived and the program will be open to all students, not just freshmen.

“A lot of the sophomores next year never came into the building, so the transition camp is free and available to all students,” Cloutier revealed.

Later in the meeting, the superintendent also shared that the governor has extended schooling for special-education students who would have otherwise aged out.

“Our postgraduate students will now get an extra year of education,” Cloutier added. “It’s not just the students this year, it’s the next two years.”

During the meeting’s committee reports, board member Elena Chow announced that The Spot has reopened and is ready for visitors. The youth center on the second floor of the Voorhees town center, near the Camden County Store, is open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. Chow also shared that Wawa has agreed to supply sandwiches again this year.

“There are video games, a pool table, karaoke,” Chow said. “We have students that are already coming in.”

The next board of education meeting will be in person on Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the township administration building.


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