BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ — Liberty Corner Elementary School was closed today, Wednesday, Nov. 25, while an investigation of two positive cases of Covid-19 was conducted, the Bernards Township school district reported on its website.

Instruction for all students will take place virtually, the message said. It advised parents to check their email for additional information.

The Bernards Township Health Department was consulted on the closure.

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Since school buildings reopened Oct. 1, there have been 16 student and six staff cases of the Covid-19 virus, it was reported at the township Board of Education meeting Monday, Nov. 23.

Nursing Coordinator Rita Zarabara gave those numbers. She said none of the cases originated in school, but through outside contacts.

In the last few days, the school reported on its website that two investigations of probable cases of the Coronavirus disease were underway in the district.  

They are the latest communications with the community, as posted on the website. The letters are available at bernardsboe.com under “community notifications.”

All letters begin, “The health and safety of our school students and district staff is our top priority.”

Dr. Matthew Speesler, the district physician, said at Monday’s meeting the district excelled in the “three Ws” of washing hands, wearing a facemask and watching distance from other people. Of all the school districts he services, he said, Bernards Township was the best in following those rules.

“It’s what’s keeping the transmission rates down in our schools,” he said.

He said the biggest concern was for staff members older than 50.

All students and visitors are required to fill out a daily screening form daily, noting their temperature and checking off symptoms of illness. The form also asks if a family member has been diagnosed with Covid-19, or if the person has traveled recently to an area of high-transmission of the virus.

Zarabara said Monday she was proud of the system Bernards Township had set up.

If there is a reported case, she said, the district immediately begins emails and phone calls to trace contacts and order a 14-day quarantine. That happens before a notice is posted for the community, she said.

The Nov. 22 letter says that a probable-case investigation of the disease is underway at Ridge High School.  The Nov. 20 letter says a student of Cedar Hill Elementary School has a laboratory-confirmed case of Covid-19,

A probable case is an individual who has symptoms associated with Covid-19 and/or has had close contact with a confirmed positive case of Covid-19.

“The district is coordinating closely with public health officials and following CDC (Centers for Disease Control), state, and local health department guidance in order to assure the health and safety of our community,” the communications read. “Cleaning and disinfecting of any exposed areas will be conducted as needed.”

“Separate communications have been issued to anyone identified as a close contact of the probable case,” the post read. “Those close contacts are quarantining for the time being and will be advised further once a final determination is made in the investigation -- typically this is based on the outcome of test results.”

The school said it will say no more, following local health department guidance, unless there is a need to close schools or suspend in-school instruction, the district said.

The latest missives follow communications on Nov. 17, 16, 13, 10 and 9 reporting Ridge High students with laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19.

In the Nov. 17 case, there was no exposure at school and therefore no close-contact notifications to be made. The district explained that “no exposure at school” typically means either the individual has been absent for a few days or is a virtual student/staff member and not in the building, so they have not exposed anyone.

Close contacts are those that have been within six feet of a person with Covid-19 for 15 minutes, cumulatively, during a 24-hour period within 48 hours of when the individual began showing symptoms or received a positive test.

In the Nov. 16, 10 and 9 instances, there was no exposure at school and therefore no close-contact notifications had to be made, the school said.

In the Nov. 13 case, all close contacts were identified and notified, the school said.  

On Nov. 6, a staff member at Mount Prospect Elementary School and a student at William Annin Middle School had unrelated laboratory-confirmed cases of the disease 2019. All students and staff members identified as close contacts were notified.

On Nov. 4, the school reported a student at Cedar Hill School had a laboratory-confirmed case of Covid-19. All students and staff members identified as close contacts were notified.

Nov. 3, the Bernards Township Health Department completed the investigation of a probable case at Ridge High School and determined it was not a lab-confirmed case of Covid-19. On Nov. 1, the district communication said the health department was investigating a probable case at the high school. It wasn’t clear if the Nov. 3 communication was the same individual as the Nov. 1 report.

A probable case is an individual who has symptoms and/or has had close contact with a confirmed positive case of Covid-19.

On Oct. 30, the Bernards Township Health Department reported one student at Liberty Corner School with a laboratory-confirmed case of Covid-19 and a second student at Liberty Corner School identified as a presumed positive case.