LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Starting Wednesday, Pinelands Regional senior and junior high students will both attend the junior high school due to construction concerns.

Acting Superintendent Cheryl Stevenson said Friday the decision was made after a roofing screw allegedly fell on a student. Stevenson said the incident was investigated and closed the school.

The possibility of falling debris, including screws, in common areas while construction takes place at Pinelands Senior High School has led school officials to close the school indefinitely.

“All students and staff will be relocated to the junior high school building,” Shaun Banin, the high school principal, told a crowd of more than 200 parents who met Friday in the junior high school’s cafeteria.

Pinelands Regional High School was closed part of last week and this week after asbestos was detected from roof work.

"We decided that we would not risk the safety of the students," Stevenson wrote in an email. "We shut down the high school so we can thoroughly address this issue and allow for the roofing construction project to finish."

In January, voters approved three bond questions for $53.6 million in repairs and upgrades to the high school and junior high. Roofs in both buildings were leaking, and structural damage had forced the closing of a stairwell in the high school.

On Monday, junior high school students are the only ones who are supposed to report to school, while the high school students are supposed to do their school work online at home.

On Tuesday, it switches. The high school students will report to the junior high for the first time, and the junior high students will do their work at home online.

“Our tentative plan is for split schedules and to begin using the junior high building starting on Wednesday (for it),” said F. Eric Pschorr, the junior high school principal.

The split-session schedules are still being finalized, but the plan is to have high school students do the first session, and the junior high do the second session, Banin said.

Students will have four one-hour blocks of classes, and ninth-graders will attend school with the junior high students.

Lunch and breakfast will be available on an optional basis for students upon arrival at the school.

As of Friday night, the school times were undetermined, as the district was trying to coordinate with its transportation company.

“The schedule will be used as necessary throughout the remainder of the construction project. Details will be communicated as soon as they are finalized,” Banin said. “We don’t know how long this will be.”

Hundreds of people, mostly parents, but also students and staff, showed up Friday inside the junior high school’s cafeteria to ask questions of the administrative team.

Pschorr said he has been with the district for 21 years and does not remember it ever operating on a split schedule.

Ninth-graders will have to be given new bus passes so they can ride on the junior high school buses. Student drivers will be able to park in the high school parking lot.

Student belongings have been left inside of lockers at the high school. Everything will be taken out of the lockers, and the high school students will receive their belongings, Banin said.

Because the high school students are doing the first academic session, a question arose concerning how they would be able to return to the school for sports and extracurricular activities.

The answer was not known Friday night, Banin said.

Multiple parents of special-needs students brought up the concern they have to work and their children cannot be left home unsupervised.

Something will be in place to address that concern by Wednesday, one of the school administrators said.

Since the high school will not be used for an indefinite period, an audience member brought up the idea of using trailers as school classrooms, but Stevenson said she couldn’t answer that question Friday night.

Another parent brought up the idea of erecting scaffolding to catch any falling debris, but Banin said he was worried that whatever was erected to catch debris could get too heavy and collapse onto people in the common areas.

A meeting is being planned for next week to provide parents with more information, Stevenson said.

In the meantime, parents were told to check the parent/student portal on the school district’s website for updated information such as transportation times.

Parents were also told to have their children visit their teacher’s Google classroom for a continuation of their education plans.

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Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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