BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Superintendent of Berkeley Heights Schools Dr. Melissa Varley issued a letter to families regarding early dismissal of students on Friday, March 13 and school closing for students for a period of at least two weeks beginning Monday, March 16, 2020.

Please read letter in its entirety.

Dear Families and Staff;

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These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult on all of us and I would like to thank all of you who have emailed me to discuss your thoughts, whether in support of staying open or in support of closing schools. I have been in contact with local health officials, the State Department of Education, many superintendents, the Board of Education, and the Mayor in order to arrive at the most responsible decisions and course of action for the students and families in our school district with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the guidance from the CDC and the federal government has changed, so must our response.  While I truly believe that we are safe in Berkeley Heights, the recent NIH recommendation to avoid large crowds and recent CDC guidelines for schools, which include the recommendation to avoid the mixing of grade levels and classes, make clear that the most prudent decision at the present time is to close our schools and transition to remote learning.  In addition, just this afternoon Governor Murphy recommended the cancellation of all events statewide with more than 250 people.

Tomorrow, Friday March 13th, we will have an early dismissal for students. Staff will stay to work on their online teaching training. While we have a truly robust plan in place, we need time to work with our staff. Our buildings will be open until 8PM on Friday evening so that parents and students may come and retrieve their belongings. 

Our staff will report at their normal times on Monday, March 16th to continue to work on their online lessons. Therefore, effective Monday, March 16, all schools in the Berkeley Heights Public Schools will be closed for a period of at least two weeks.  All extracurricular and school-related activities and events are suspended during this time. At the end of the two-week period--by Friday, March 27--a decision will be made regarding either the continued closure of school or the resumption of school and after-school activities.  We will also continue to monitor all events associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and consider additional alterations to the school calendar if necessary.

The table below summarizes what will occur over the next three days:

Date

Students

Staff

Friday, March 13th

Early Dismissal

½ day with students

½ day training

Monday, March 16th

Off

Full Day of Training

Tuesday, March 17th

Online Remote Learning Begins

Online Remote Learning Begins

Buildings will be open for phone calls as our 12 month employees will be present on a revised schedule.

We will provide packed lunches during our closure for those families who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program.  We will communicate directly with those families in the coming days.

We will be communicating additional information to you via our schools as we venture into these uncharted waters.  Some of these communications will include how to access counseling support for students, how to get help with technology-related matters, and other details.  There will be many questions and challenges that arise in the coming weeks, and we will all work together to do everything we can to support our students and help them progress.  This will not be perfect, but we cannot let perfect be the enemy of good under the circumstances.

The closure of school is not something that any of us wants, but it is something that we are now faced with as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  As a parent myself, I feel the worry and concern that we all feel for our children and their well-being. The actions we take now will hopefully lead to a better outcome in the long run for our kids and for all of us, despite how distressing and overwhelming they may seem.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation and flexibility as we find our way through this unprecedented set of events.

Sincerely,

Dr. Melissa Varley