Klaus provides final update for start of new school year

Distancing protocols finalized for all grades; free lunches for all.

The Haddonfield School District will be ready for in person classes on Sept. 8, with protocols in place to guard against the Delta variant of COVID. 

Superintendent Chuck Klaus updated the board of education and members of the public on the plans during the former’s open public session on Aug. 26. 

Since the board’s last full open public session in late July, Gov. Phil Murphy has issued a pair of executive orders as safeguarding measures.  

Executive Order 251, signed on Aug. 6, requires all students, staff and visitors in schools to wear masks while indoors. Per Executive Order 253, signed on Aug. 23, all district personnel must be fully vaccinated no later than Oct. 18, or be subjected to testing at least once or twice per week. 

Per the former order, masking will also be required in district buildings before and after school hours, as well as for all future board meetings. Masks will also be worn on all school buses, but not when students, staff and visitors are outside. 

For all students who seek exemption from these edicts, parents are expected to submit a doctor’s note to the district for review, and a determination on that student’s status will be made. 

“We are still going to be doing our daily screenings in the morning for right now, but we may change that as we go through the year,” Klaus stated. 

While the 3-foot minimum on social distancing established in the spring when district schools went back to in person learning is still in place, the superintendent admitted it’s likely to be a challenge with 100 percent attendance. 

“It should be noted that, in many classrooms, when we’re all back in … there will be times when that 3-foot (rule) will be broken,” Klaus explained. “We are not promising 3 feet all the time; we cannot promise 3 feet all the time. Students need to move around, they need to interact.”

One significant philosophical change Klaus noted was to the definition of a “close contact” that  could send students home with a positive COVID result. In the pre-K through 12 indoor classroom setting, “close contact” now excludes students within 6 feet of an affected student, where both affected students are consistently wearing their masks correctly. 

“So if we have students within 3 feet of one another, and one student’s positive, this time last year that other student would be excluded from school,” Klaus continued. “That’s not the case now.”

Klaus stated the district will have virtual learning for students who have been excluded from school due to COVID, but advised parents to keep their children home if they are sick no matter what the symptoms or diagnoses are. 

Lunch will be free for all district students. At Haddonfield Middle School and Haddonfield Memorial High School, both breakfast and lunch are free. Elementary-school students who need assistance in this area are expected to receive free breakfast as well.

“One of the things to note: If you’ve ever been in one of our school buildings in the summer, you wouldn’t know that teachers have summers off. They’re getting ready. They’re excited to see the kids,” Klaus added of the level of enthusiasm for returning for full days for the first time in 18 months.

For more information on how the district continues to track and plan against COVID, visit: https://haddonfieldschools.org/ and select COVID info from the taskbar. 

In other news

  • HMHS rising sophomore Ryan Cataldo was commended by the board for being named a national debate champion at the National Speech & Debate Tournament. The online competition took place from June 13 to 19. 
  • Board President Adam Sangillo announced that two board members, Susan Kutner and Thomas Vecchio, would resign. Due to Kutner’s dedication, the district was able to pass its $35 million bond referendum in 2016 and formulate its current long range facilities plan to allow for future physical plant upgrades. Her term is due to expire in January. Vecchio’s acumen was best shown in the negotiations between the district and its teachers’ union that yielded a new collective-bargaining agreement earlier this year amidst the strain of the ongoing pandemic. His term expires  in January 2023.