HAWTHORNE, NJ - Hawthorne parents received emails from Superintendent of Schools Richard A. Spirito informing them of a town-wide switch from in-person instruction to virtual learning due to increased cases of COVID-19 in the school district.  Spirito said that "the initial investigation has identified possible close contacts in multiple schools," which resulted in the ultimate decision to switch to remote learning for all schools, not just the high school.

In the initial email, Superintendent Spirito shared "As a result of this situation and out of an abundance of caution, ALL of the Hawthorne Public Schools will participate in remote instruction on Thursday, October 29th and Friday, October 30th. Over the next two days, the district will continue to communicate with our local health officials as they complete their contact tracing. We will also follow CDC, NJ Department of Health, and local health department guidance in order to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and community."

Spirito later extended the remote learning period.  "Administratively, we have consulted with our local Public Health Nurse and local Health Department to discuss the current positive cases and precautions moving forward.  As a result of these conversations, the current increase in cases across the state, and the recent positive COVID cases in our school district, ALL of the Hawthorne Public Schools will participate in remote instruction from Thursday, October 29, 2020, through Wednesday, November 11, 2020.  Additionally, all in-person extracurricular activities for Hawthorne High School are canceled/postponed through Wednesday, November 11, 2020."

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Spirito said that contact tracing had been in effect.  "As a result of this contact tracing, we were required to quarantine numerous students and staff at both Hawthorne High School and Lincoln Middle School.  Earlier this week, we also had an unrelated positive COVID case at Roosevelt School."

While the superintendent's decision was made in the best interest of the health of students and school faculty, parents and their children were saddened that traditional Halloween activities in the schools are no longer possible.  Still, that didn't stop children of all ages from donning their costumes as they set up at their home work stations for the day. Parades and classroom parties were replaced with alternative celebrations over Zoom and Goggle Meet. Local parent Steven Bley told with TAPinto Hawthorne, "Our son, Sawyer, was supposed to go into school and have a Halloween party. Now he’s having that party with his friends over Google Meet." 

Third-grader Samantha told her mother, Billie Jean Leitman, that today was the one day of school she was really looking forward to. Having to celebrate the first big holiday of the school year from home instead of surrounded by her friends really upset her. "She is so sad, but her teacher, Mrs. Mearon, is making the best out of the situation," Leitman said.

The ability for children, their parents and their teachers to adapt during these uncertain times is unprecedented. As adults are doing their best to provide some bit of "normalcy" for Hawthorne's youth, that term is sure to take on a new meaning thanks to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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