Students return to school amid pandemic


Ilmie Xhaferi

The district has welcomed back all students from grade 10 through 12 in Cohort A on Sept. 3 and Cohort B on Sept. 4, while an orientation day for freshman was held on Sept. 2. With students returning, the district has taken several safety measures to promote social distancing including the placement of green and white tape down the center of every hallway.

Ilmie Xhaferi, Staff Editor

After conducting entirely remote instruction since March 16 due to the pandemic, the district welcomed back all students from grades 10 through 12 in Cohort A on Sept. 3, with Cohort B attending school the following day on Sept. 4. An orientation day for freshman was held on Sept. 2.,  and all days were run on a special half-day schedule. 

“We have a solid administrative team and they sacrificed a lot over these last two months to make [reopening] a reality,” district Superintendent Erik Gundersen said. “I’m proud to say that, at least for now we’re open.”

Out of Pascack Valley’s 1,077 students, 942 have chosen to participate in the hybrid learning schedule, as of Aug. 29. The other 135 students chose to begin the 2020-21 school year remotely, according to PV Principal Glenn deMarrais, who also noted that only three teachers will be working fully remotely. 

“We’ve hired substitute teachers to be partners with the teachers [who are remote] to ensure that the video conferencing that takes place [with] the teacher from home is up on the screen and that students can hear them, to distribute materials as appropriate, and just help that teacher implement the class,” Gundersen said. 

Gundersen said that the district has provided a child daycare program for all teachers in which they can bring their children to Pascack Hills, where a caretaker will monitor them while teachers are in the classroom. 

“[The child care program] was really unique and a really great way of taking some of the pressure off our teachers, allowing them to come back into our buildings,” Gundersen said.

While students who attend school in-person will have to wear masks and social distance, other protocols include a Daily Health Form that must be completed by parents every morning through Genesis on the days their child goes on campus. 

“Unless they exhibit symptoms, we’re not mandating that teachers or students be tested in the building, that’s what that [the Daily Health Form] is for,” Gundersen said. “We’re trusting that parents are monitoring for student temperatures and signs and symptoms of COVID, and we’re expecting staff members to do the same thing.” 

The district has also placed green and white tape down the center of every hallway in the building to promote social distancing. Students and staff must stay on the right of the tape and each stairwell will also be marked as “up” or “down” for one-way traffic only. DeMarrais said that hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom. 

Since students are not allowed to change clothes in the locker rooms until further notice by the district, the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year will be Health or Driver’s Ed for all physical education classes. School days will also begin at 8:20, instead of the usual 8:00, and desks in classrooms have been spaced out. 

“We are not going to be reckless as a district,” Gundersen said. “We prioritize health and safety above all else.” 

Gundersen said that if a student or faculty member tested positive for the coronavirus, the district would work in partnership with the Department of Health to do contact tracing. The district would then contact students and staff members who may have been in close contact with that person who tested positive.

“Some students may have to be quarantined for a period of time [if someone tested positive]. In other more extreme cases, we may need to mandate a larger group of people, or perhaps, ultimately, an entire school building or cohort that would have to be quarantined,” Gundersen said. 

Gundersen said that if somebody tested positive for the virus in Cohort A, it is still possible for Cohort B to attend school in-person. It would still be possible for in-person classes to continue, however certain individuals would have to quarantine. 

“It’s going to be a struggle for students,” Gundersen said. “It’s certainly a struggle for our teachers, but if I know anything about our teachers, [it is that] they are stepping up to this challenge. It may not be perfect in the beginning, but I know that our teachers are trying the best they can to make it a successful learning experience for our students.”