First Day Of School: District Returns To All In-Person Learning For The First Time In 18 Months

Franklin High School principal Nicholas Solomon directs students on the first day of school September 9.

Franklin High School principal Nick Solomon strode down the school’s main hallway on September 9, waving his arms like a traffic cop on a rush hour morning.

“Keep it moving, keep it moving,” he yelled, as he made his way through the throngs of students in the hallway.

Solomon stopped every few steps to answer a question or give directions to a student looking for their homeroom. But then he was on the move again, moving through the crowd as lithely as he did defenders when he was a member of the Warrior football’s 1996-97 championship team.

By the time students began arriving at school, sometime after 7 a.m., Solomon had already been in the building for more than an hour.

“I stayed here late (the previous night), and I went to bed early, got up early,” he said. “I’m an early riser. I must feel good if I was able to sleep last night.”

“I’m super excited,” Solomon said of the new school year. “We’re going to see all this hard summer work is going to pay off. We had a lot of planning this summer, not only the normal planning for the start of a school year but keeping in mind the Covid regulations.”

“Things change, we adjust,” he said of the challenges posed by evolving guidance from the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to do in-person education this year. “That makes you nervous, but obviously we’re super excited to have kids back in the building.”

“We’re educators, we want to be around kids, it’s just an exciting feeling,” Solomon said.

Solomon was named principal of Franklin High School over the summer, and joins Torrie Rumph-Hurd, principal of Franklin Middle School – Hamilton Street campus, in their first full year in their current buildings.

Rebekah Solomon, Nick’s wife, was named principal at Franklin Park School in October, 2020, so this will be her first full year in that position, as well.

The trio and the other principals, teachers and staff at all 10 township schools – the high school, two middle school campuses and seven elementary schools – welcomed all of the district’s roughly 7,200 students back to school for the first time in about 18 months.

The Covid-19 pandemic closed schools in March of 2020, forcing the district to go totally remote. Restrictions eased for teh 2020-21 school year, and students were allowed to choose whether they wanted in-person learning or to continue with distance learning.

Gov. Phil Murphy has mandated that, as of now at least, all regular learning will occur in-person in the state’s public schools.

Unlike past years, there was no phalanx of staff and teachers clapping the students in as they disembarked from their buses into the drizzly morning. Concerns about social distancing put a temporary halt to that tradition, school officials have said.

“We’re going to bring these kids in, get them acclimated, get the staff acclimated, show them how to get from point A to point B,” Solomon said.

“We want to make sure the flow of the building is working,” he said. “There are things I need to learn. I’m trusting my staff that the things I have put in place are working.”

“I’m taking notes all day long, and we’ll see how it goes,” Solomon said.

Schools Superintendent John Ravally stopped in to the high school for opening day.

“It’s exciting,” he said “Look at the kids; they’re smiling, underneath those masks, I promise you.”

“We have a lot of things happening today, lots of buses rolling, lots of kids coming in,” Ravally said. “But we’re ready. The principals have done a wonderful job. The directors, supervisors, teachers; everybody’s done a wonderful job, I’m just excited to get going.”

Unlike Solomon, Ravally said, he did not sleep the night before.

“I never do first day of school,” he said. “But now it’s for different reasons.”

Here are some scenes from opening day at the high school:

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