BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Bernards Township schools will open Thursday by welcoming nearly 200 fewer students than last fall.

More than half of the decrease comes in the K-5 grades, with 101 of the projected 191 fewer students across the district. Oak Street and Mount Prospect schools carry most of the drop of the four elementary schools, with 47 and 49 students, respectively.

Enrollment is foreseen to be 2.2 percent less at the middle school and 3.2 percent less at Ridge High.

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Enrollment changes daily, cautioned Superintendent Nick Markarian in an email Thursday.

Here are the numbers, with the change from September 2018 in parentheses:

  •  Ridge High School (grades 9-12): 1,828 (-61), a drop of -3.2 percent;

  • William Annin Middle School (grades 6, 7, 8): 1,283, (-29), or 2.2 percent fewer;

  • Cedar Hill School (K-5): 543, the same as 2018;

  • Liberty Corner School (K-5): 521, five fewer than 2018 (-1.0);

  • Oak Street School (K-5): 419, or 47 fewer, a drop of 10.1 percent, and

  • Mount Prospect School (K-5): 537, or 49 fewer than last September, a drop of 8.4 percent.

The total for the entire district is 5,131, or 191 fewer than 2018, an overall drop of 3.7 percent, The four elementary schools will start with 2,020 students, or 5 percent less than 2018.

School enrollment for all K-12 grades peaked at 5,716 in 2013-14.

The four elementary schools will hold versions of open house on Wednesday, Sept. 4, when parents and children will be able to meet teachers briefly, see where the classroom is located and meet old and new friends. 

The first full day of school is Thursday, Sept. 5. High school graduation is scheduled for June 18, 2020, and middle school the night before.

In a letter to parents, Markarian said the summer has been busy with hiring, curriculum writing, professional development, facility maintenance and capital improvement activities.

“In particular, we are pleased to have completed the last of our HVAC (heating/ ventilation/air conditioning) projects that have been underway the last several summers,” he wrote. “In this final phase, Annin received new HVAC

equipment in the old sections of the 300 and 400 wing (which previously did not have central air conditioning units).”

The school board is continuing to plan for an expansion of Ridge High School , which would allow implementation of a new master schedule there for the 2021-2022 school year.

This fall, the district has switched to Genesis computer information system, replacing Aspen. In Genesis parents and students can check on messages from the teacher and homework assignments, see grades, send messages and check classroom assignments, among other things.

Parents have been sent emails with information and instructions related to the Genesis Parent Portal. If you did not receive these emails, refer to the instructions posted front and center on the district webpage at bernardsboe.com.

In order to access student schedules and teacher assignments, both parent and student forms for grades 6-12 children must be completed. For grades K-5 children, teacher assignments will be available as long as parent forms are completed. To see a student schedule or teacher assignment, users can login to Genesis and click on the “Student Data” tab. Help is available at each school.

Starting this year, students in grades 4 and 5 will get an introduction to Spanish in two 30-minute sessions per week. The goal is to teach some memorized words and phrases and learn about culture.

Fifth graders will continue to move to nearby rooms and see different teachers under the “platooning” idea begun on a trial level last year. Students will begin and end the day with the same homeroom teacher, but move as a class for two-period blocks during the day.

Students in grades 3 to 5 will see more computer training while continuing to spend time learning how to use the media center.

Bus passes will be mailed to homes and should arrive by Saturday, Aug. 31. Questions regarding a bus pass should be directed to the Somerset County Educational Services Commission at (908) 707-0070, extension 430, or email asttranscoord@sc.esc.k12.nj.us.

The district is continuing the practice of having four abbreviated days K-12 to afford time for in-service activities with staff. The four abbreviated schedule dates are Oct. 2 , Nov. 6, Jan. 29 and March 4.

The district has changed the start time for delayed openings, starting instruction a half-hour earlier at 9:35 a.m. Parents and students should check for bus pickup times.