EducationThe Examiner

Byram Hills Looks to Increase Attendance in Grades 7-12 to 60 Percent

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Byram Hills school officials plan to increase in-class attendance for grades 7-12 to 60 percent next month as districts search for ways to safely and effectively return students to class more often.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jen Lamia said last week there is enough room in H.C. Crittenden Middle School and Byram Hills High School to have students in those grades attend 60 percent of the time while maintaining six feet between desks.

The secondary-level grades have been coming in two-and-a-half days each week since the start of the school year while students in grades K-6 have been attending school full-time except for those families who choose to have their children learn remotely.

The change is scheduled to take effect on Monday, Apr. 19, the first day of the final quarter of the school year.

Where there is not enough room in a class to maintain six feet of separation, there will be overflow rooms to accommodate students, although Lamia said it isn’t anticipated that the rooms would have to be used for many youngsters. Overflow rooms will be similar to remote learning, she said.

District officials are working off the assumption there will be 100 percent in-person attendance each day by the students whose days it is to report to class.

“Even right now our kids are not attending in full complement, it behooves us to see if we can bring more kids in because we know we can handle the extra 10 percent even if everyone is fully in on those days,” Lamia said.

From Mar. 1 to Mar. 11, there were eight to 17 seventh-graders who participated in remote learning depending on the day, and two to 15 students in eighth grade, she said. Some of those students have chosen to do full remote learning for the year while others might be under quarantine.

During that same time period in the high school, there were four to 13 freshmen participating in remote learning; 10 to 23 students in 10th grade; 16 to 26 students in 11th grade; and 24 to 40 seniors. About 10 percent of the district’s students have opted to learn entirely remotely this year, said Deputy Superintendent Tim Kaltenecker.

There will likely be additional cohorts created starting on Apr. 19, Lamia said.

She said her office explored bringing students back 80 percent of the time, but it could not be achieved without shrinking the distance between desks to as little as three feet, a move that administrators are uneasy about. Last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued revised its guidelines to allow students to be within three feet of one another.

“I don’t want to alienate those kids that are in because they are trusting in what we’re doing is safe and the fact that we’ve had so many COVID positive cases and quarantines that have not affected the kids in class, I’d say we continue to do this at six feet for now,” Lamia said.

As of last week, the district has recorded 137 positive COVID-19 cases and have had 50 quarantines since the start of the school year in September.

Board of Education member Scott Levy said he was encouraged by the move.

“It seems like a very feasible plan,” he said.

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