SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- There was little pomp and circumstance, but a bit of celebration for the roughly 460 students who entered Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School for in-class learning on Tuesday, Jan. 19, for the first time since March 2020. 

Senior class advisors Amanda Moser and Cindy Prybbella worked on decorations to welcome students back and played some music to create a celebratory atmosphere. Shortly before 8:00 a.m, the doors opened and, carrying their backpacks and ever-present cell phones, masked students returned to the building for class. 

"We've been looking forward to today with optimism and anxiety. Everything went smoothly, and they're excited to be back. We can see the smiles on their faces - even behind the masks," said principal Dr. David Heisey. "Today the Blue cohorts are here. On Thursday, we will have another 'first day' when the Red cohorts return. Getting back into the routine is important."

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Dr. Heisey spent a portion of his morning guiding freshmen through the labyrinth that is Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, which can be challenging to navigate -- especially for the first time. Ninth-graders went through an in-person freshman orientation in November, Dr. Heisey said, but the reopening of school buildings ultimately was delayed until January.

"It feels great to be back," said senior Charlie Coolidge. "We are excited and hopefully we can stay safe and stay in school."

According to the principal, 41% of students opted to stay with at-home learning. Of the 59% remaining, students are divided into two sets (Red and Blue cohorts). Thus, on any given school day, roughly 24.5% of the entire high school population will be in school (if all of the students scheduled to come to school do so). 

"I'm glad to see the kids back and get some sense of normalcy back," Detective Rich Hernandez, the Scotch Plains police department's SRO officer stationed at the high school.


Tuesday was also the first day that seventh and eighth graders returned to Park Middle or Terrill Middle School for in-person classes during this academic year.