Citing directives from health authorities, Toms River Regional school district students reverted back to an all-virtual learning schedule Tuesday, with officials saying the change is expected to last into December.
The district began the school year with a hybrid schedule, with students attending schools Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Friday set aside as a deep cleaning day. The goal was to allow social distancing in classrooms. But the recent national surge in coronavirus cases prompted school officials to change course this week – a move Superintendent David Healy said the district was always ready to make depending on the status of the pandemic. Flexibility had been built in to the district’s “Safe Return” plan since September.
“It is our plan to reopen schools for blended learning on Monday, Dec. 14; however, that is of course dependent on a downward trend in the number of local positive cases and additional guidance and/or directives from the [Ocean County Health Department],” Healy wrote in a letter to parents.
The transition to fully virtual learning includes Toms River students enrolled in Ocean County Vocational programs. It is anticipated that OCVTS academy students will return to in-person learning Dec. 8, according to the letter.
“I want to reiterate that this was not a course of action we wanted to take, and I also want to reassure all of you that this decision is being made despite our relentless, collective efforts to adhere to protocols and thus ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Healy wrote. “This is not an indictment of those efforts; in fact, all reports and data suggest that our schools have done an extraordinary job of preventing outbreaks, a sentiment recently echoed by OCHD. Unfortunately, this is a necessary response to a much broader problem, as the status of our area has progressed to high risk.'”
The district urged parents to remain in contact with their schools and notify principals of any positive cases among students, even while they are at home.
“This information is integral toward our planning for the immediate future, as well as the continued safety of our students and staff,” the letter said.