District to continue using hybrid schedule for remainder of school year


Ellie Kim

Furniture taken out by the maintenance team Wednesday afternoon in the lower cafeteria in preparation for the possible merging of both cohorts. At a Special Board of Education meeting held on May 13 in-person and virtually through Zoom, the BOE decided to keep the hybrid schedule for the remainder of the school year.

The Board of Education has chosen to continue with the hybrid schedule for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year during the Thursday night special BOE meeting held virtually on Zoom and in-person in the Pascack Valley cafeteria. This decision followed a discussion about the possible merging of Cohorts A and B.

BOE President Tammy Molinelli shared that the reopening committee for the Pascack Valley district met this Wednesday to discuss the logistics of both Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills’ cohorts merging.

“We [needed to discuss] things like busing, schedules, lunch schedules, the logistics of getting the furniture in [the school], whether we could get all the teachers in, and whether the nurses would be prepared,” Molinelli said. 

District Superintendent Erik Gundersen explained his concerns with the two cohorts merging, which would effectively bring in-person students back into the building five days per week.

“Particularly for our seniors, there’s concern that if we bring all of the students back five days a week, some really important life events [such as prom], potentially, are not going to [be] taking place[in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak which would require students to quarantine],” Gundersen said.“We believe at this point of the year, with such a few days left, the benefits of being back in school full time don’t outweigh potential risks.”

This Tuesday, a form was sent out to Pascack Hills and PV parents. The objective of this form was to establish the logistics of a possible merger between Cohorts A and B, including adjusting the amount of furniture in the school and transportation for students. 

In looking through the results, Gundersen shared that PH would have 553 students going in-person to school every day, whereas PV would have 821 students going in-person to school. 

Some of the BOE members shared their views on the possibility of merging the two cohorts during the BOE meeting.

BOE member Joe Blundo explained that while he does understand the urge to go back in person five days per week, he doesn’t think it is a plausible plan for the remainder of this school year. 

“While I think we could pull it off, I think it would be a very high risk of exposure; if one person brings the virus into school, it can really disturb prom, sports tournaments, and graduation,” Blundo said. 

Gini Varghese expressed her concerns about the job uptake for the school nurses if the school were to merge Cohorts A and B. Decreasing social distancing from six feet to three feet would cause a heavier workload for school nurses, since in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak, more students would be required to quarantine. 

Varghese said it was “unfair” to ask the nurses to accommodate for the increased work. 

BOE member Kelly Blundy shared that while she wants nothing more than to have students back in school five days a week, listening to all the different rules that the school would have to follow in order to merge the cohorts made her wonder if it would ultimately be the best decision.

BOE member Debra Stephans pointed out that reopening school five days per week for both cohorts would create the possible risk factor of “ quarantining 40 to 50 people at one time for one incident of COVID-19”.

Gundersen said that the administration is looking forward to reopening the schools when the time comes.

“There’s no one who wants to get the students back [in our buildings] more than our team of administrators and staff,” Gundersen said.