ROXBURY,  NJ - Each year students at Lincoln/Roosevelt School in Succasunna take part in the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) project sponsored by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited. TIC is a science-based program that teaches children the importance of coldwater conservation through a hands-on approach to learning.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 related school closures, this year’s school of fish had to be released early.

According to sixth-grade science teacher Susanna Rodgers, the program has been a part of Roxbury for quite some time. “Years ago, Shawn Smith and Al Gaul worked with Melissa Cosgrove to obtain a substantial grant that initiated the program at Lincoln/Roosevelt," she said. "This is my fourth year participating in the program.”

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Jennifer Hallet, another sixth-grade science teacher, shared, “Lincoln/Roosevelt has been a part of the program for several years and has released hundreds of trout into our local streams.”

This project kicks off shortly after the students arrive in September. “They set up the tanks, collect rocks from the river that begin the colonies of microorganisms. This is crucial for our success in building a sustainable environment for our fish,” explained Rodgers.

Students and staff then work with volunteers at the Pequest Hatchery in Hackettstown when 300 trout eggs are brought to LRS classrooms in October.

“Under normal circumstances, the eggs arrive in the fall, we discuss their life cycles, and then we have the opportunity to watch them develop to fingerlings before releasing them in May,” said Hallet.

Due to the COVID-19 school closures and the unknowns surrounding the staff admittance into the buildings, they were forced to release the trout early this year.

“Typically, I come into school over long breaks, such as winter and spring break, to feed the fish when necessary," Rodgers said. "It is a labor of love for both the trout and our science program.”

“We still had the opportunity to watch them grow from eggs to fingerlings, which is the stage in which we hope they will reach by May. Releasing them early this year gave them the best chance of survival because we weren’t sure if we would have access to our tanks to feed them, and we also didn’t want any of the chemicals from the cleaners being used to get into our tanks, trout are very sensitive to pollution. That is one quality that make trout so awesome. If they are present in your local streams, you know the water quality is good” said Hallet.

On March 13, 136 healthy fingerlings were released into the Rockaway River with the assistance of Science Supervisor for Grades 6-12 Denise Glenn.

"As Jenn said, it was out of necessity," Rodgers said. "It was my top priority when preparing for the close of school. They would not have survived at school under the current circumstances, and I am so grateful for the support Denise Glenn and the administration, including Principal Chris Argenziano, Assistant Principal Brian Hamer and Assistant Superintendent Chuck Seipp, provided us to ensure their safety."

Argenziano gave the trout a shout out in his Flexible Instruction Day Morning Message on Wednesday tying the continuation of the program into the student’s home instruction.