NEWARK, NJ – After the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered school buildings citywide, students at LEAD Charter School in Newark returned to their classrooms on Monday to commence in-person instruction for the first time in over a year. 

LEAD reopened at 40% capacity - about 70-80 students in the building per day - with a hybrid learning model in place. The return marked a new phase of LEAD’s reopening plan to ensure students and staff learn in a safe environment amid the pandemic.

Working in partnership with Inspire Diagnostics, a California-based healthcare company, school officials will administer COVID tests on a routine basis to support the return to in-person learning. 

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“We know that students learn best in the classroom. With access to vaccines for educators and the ability to routinely administer COVID testing, it’s time to begin returning to in-person instruction,” LEAD Supervisor of Instruction Daniel Cruz said. “This partnership with Inspire Diagnostics is providing a resource that helps our staff and students feel comfortable and at ease, so they can get back to the business of teaching, learning and growing as a community.”

As part of the program, Inspire Diagnostics will provide COVID screenings and rapid tests with trained technicians on-site at the school’s 201 Bergen St. location. Test results are guaranteed within 24 to 48 hours, with rapid test results in as little as 15 minutes, officials said. Approximately every two to four weeks, COVID tests will be administered to students and staff, according to officials. 

All centralized testing will be conducted at LEAD’s Bergen Street campus, and rapid testing will be available on-site at all three locations: 201 Bergen St., 571 Central Ave. and La Casa de Don Pedro’s campus on 39 Broadway.

Students who opted for in-person learning will also continue to wear masks indoors and remain socially distanced, whether or not they are vaccinated. 

"We're proud to partner with LEAD Charter School to advance our common mission of prioritizing community health, safety and productivity,” Inspire Diagnostics CEO John Kang said. “Testing is and will continue to be a critical component for preventing any emerging outbreaks and identifying new variants.”

Another facet of the school’s reopening plan also calls for a hybrid learning model which will have students in class four days a week. Students will be in classrooms Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for Career and Technical Education training courses. Wednesdays will remain virtual.

Academic classes will remain virtual, but other courses such as young people’s construction, allied health and information technology training will be conducted in person, according to officials.