LAMBERTVILLE, NJ - In an email to the South Hunterdon Regional School District (SHRSD) community Nov. 29, Superintendent Anthony Suozzo outlined that the schools will be transitioning to remote learning Nov. 30 through Dec. 11.

Students in middle and high school began full online instruction Nov. 30, while students at Lambertville and West Amwell public schools will begin Dec. 1, “so that teachers can provide students with materials, devices, etc.”

Many of Hunterdon County’s school buildings have remained open during the COVID-19 crisis, offering abbreviated in-person or hybrid scheduling options. South Hunterdon’s elementary schools successfully held in-person learning for five days a week through the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year.

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Suozzo said as recently as the Nov. 23 board of education (BOE) meeting that he wanted schools in the district to remain in-person as long as the county was in the orange level on the state’s regional risk matrix. That would change if the region escalated to the red level or if there was evidence that cases impacted the district’s ability to operate buildings.

As of Nov. 29, Hunterdon County has had 48 new positive cases for a total of 2,469, according to the state’s data dashboard. The county is in the state’s Central West region, grouped with Mercer and Somerset counties, which saw 164 and 83 new positives, respectively.

In the Sunday email, Suozzo wrote that two students at the high school had tested positive just before the Thanksgiving holiday break. It was also revealed that within the past 24 hours, a staff member at the middle/high school had tested positive and other staff members “district-wide” had been exposed outside of school.

He emphasized in bold that these new developments, “will impact our ability to operate our buildings effectively,” hence the change.

Gov. Phil Murphy has allowed local districts to be in control regarding whether or not they open building doors, meaning Suozzo has the authority to administer the scheduling changes.

On Aug. 24, during a contested virtual meeting, the SHRSD board of education voted 5-4 to allow for hybrid scheduling to take place at the middle and high schools (7-12) and for the elementary students (Pre-K-6) to have in-person instruction. Every district in the state was required to also offer a remote learning option, per Murphy’s Executive Order.

In a separate email before Thanksgiving, the superintendent had put out a technology survey to Pre-K through first grade parents to measure home device access and prioritize distribution. The district had ordered tablets for early learners back in the spring, but cited delays due to COVID-19.

“We have yet to receive those devices even though we have changed vendors twice in order to expedite our order,” Suozzo wrote.
The schedule changes will be in place over the next two weeks; Suozzo noted the district will re-evaluate for a potential reopening Dec. 14.