Princeton Public Schools shifts to a remote-only start of the academic year

The top public school official in Princeton told the school board on Tuesday night that he had to scrap plans for a phased-in hybrid learning model that would have brought young elementary school students back to school first in September because the school district does not have enough staff members to work in person.

An in-person hybrid instruction model will begin in the Princeton Public Schools on Oct. 12 at the earliest, depending on how the coronavirus pandemic evolves.

“We are at a crossroad,” Interim Superintendent Barry Galasso told the school board at the virtual public meeting Tuesday night.

“We are receiving accommodation (requests) from our staff with medical documentation that they are unable to work in person with a hybrid model. Therefore we will not be able to staff our schools properly,” Galasso said. “I’m hoping by Oct. 12 there will be enough confidence in the school district’s ability to provide the appropriate ventilation, the appropriate PPE, the appropriate cleanliness in our buildings, and confidence in our protocols, that we will be able to have our teachers come back into the buildings. That will depend on the virus, spikes in Mercer County or New Jersey, and other variables we are unable to control.”

As of Tuesday, 89 staff members in the district asked to work from home.

“A significant number of certified staff members are requesting to work from home,” Galasso said. “We also anticipate another 20 or 25 requests to work from home. It leaves us unable to staff our schools appropriately. Therefore I have to recommend to the board of education that we go to a remote learning style for at least the first month. There isn’t really any choice for us because we do not have the staff to implement the instructional program.”

If students are able to return on Oct. 12, elementary school students would start in-person learning first, and a week later on Oct 19, the district would welcome students in grades six through 12. “It all dependes on the ability to staff our schools,” Galasso said.

A decision about fall athletics will be made by Sept. 14, Galasso said, adding that he is also recommending that the district employ head coaches part-time to provide social and emotional support to athletes.

Ionization filters are being added to the HVAC Systems in all the schools. The school board approved $98,000 worth of filters Tuesday night and will be asked at some point to approve another $50,000 for ionization filters at Johnson Park Elementary and Princeton High School on Tuesday. The installation and other work should be completed by Oct. 12, Galasso said, adding that the delay of in-person instruction gives the district time to make sure all schools meet appropriate health and safety standards.

Once the hybrid in-person learning model begins, individual students can switch between the hybrid and remote models, but must wait until the end of a marking period to move from one learning environment to another, Galasso said.

Tuesday night, Galasso said when the district returns to the hybrid model, meals will be served. A spokesperson for the district then said on Wednesday morning that meals will not be served at schools once the district returns to a hybrid model. Students participating in the district’s free and reduced lunch program will continue to have food delivered every Wednesday whether the district is working in hybrid or remote-only mode, Galasso said.


  1. Sad news day for students. Maybe have kids WFH/remote in and Princeton teachers report to classrooms to have their salaries paid. Property tax rebates and school voucher option should be in discussion for better solution.

    1. This is actually a good idea-this idea of teachers having to go into empty buildings and empty classrooms – for guaranteeing that the teachers provide the 5-6 hours of live instruction they are promising in documentation from the district. Make the teachers come in to an empty building to show they are doing the live instruction. Or really should that be necessary… other professionals are doing their jobs remotely why didn’t the administrators and teachers do this in Spring of 2020 ?

      Parents and taxpayers should though be able to see the 5-6 hours of live instruction and one-on-one tutoring and office hours from the teachers, all teachers …
      Remote class sizes should be limited to 5 children so the teacher can see everyone on the screen

      and a teacher who does not provide it should not be allowed to receive six figures and all the benefits.
      Also administrators should not receive such large salaries and benefits if they cannot produce

      Unions are great, but it is not clear what can be done to a tenured professor or union teacher if they do not perform…

      Also the computers with the CANVAS software are not yet in, the district has not yet been able to have all ordered computers or the CANVAS logins set up yet so we are all just crossing our fingers that they have distributed all the tech with the CANVAS logins by Sept 10th so students and parents have a chance to use it. Hopefully also there will be more communication about exactly what remote teaching will be… and look like. It is a shame that so much time and money was spent on busing and plexiglass and other things and even filters if the teachers are not going to come in. If the filters make everyone more comfortable and raise folks risk tolerance by lowering the risk that is great. But if not it is money better given back to the taxpayers and in vouchers for private school, private tutoring and for summer school arranged by the parents.

      Folks who want to home school should get the portion of their property taxes back that go to school. The housing stock here is nearly 3x the price of housing in any other neighborhood bc of the schools so it has been surprising how bad the remote learning was done in the spring of 2020.
      Also some opportunities for clubs and outdoor socializing – outdoor art classes should be offered, outdoor singing, outdoor swimming and all sports, there should be some safe opportunities for parents to set up play dates or some opportunities for children to socialize w their peers, such as five kids in an outdoor art class etc.
      5 kids singing together outside w a teacher or playing instruments

  2. Please don’t ever refer to teachers as “heroes” and have them tell us how it is “always about the kids”. This is pure self-interest. Let me work from home, earn my full salary with benefits, and I might also decide not to report to my workplace. Disgraceful. Thank god our factory workers, store clerks, and truck drivers have more backbone than these pampered teachers and allow this country not to devolve into total chaos.

    1. According to the article, 89 staff members (teachers, aids, custodians, bus drivers, administrators, counselors, nurses) requested to work at home. According to PPS website, they employ 782 staff members. While we may not find common ground on the 10% or so that requested to stay home, perhaps we can agree that your contempt is misplaced for the overwhelming majority of staff members who did not request to work from home?

  3. If only 10-20% of staff is missing, why can’t the school reopen then? They will have much less than 50% of students at a time, with two shifts and some people choosing remote only. And with half-days they will have to drop some class periods anyway, so some subjects can be remote-only.

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