BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Although the region has moved from moderate to high risk for COVID-19, the district is still intending to remain open for hybrid instruction, as per guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health.

Interim superintendent Thomas Ficarra sent a message to the community Tuesday addressing the change in risk and concerns about whether there will be additional school closings planned at this point.

"This shift for our area means that we must all continue to closely follow guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health about how to keep our families and community safe," he said. "Fortunately, we can report success with our safe reopening of the schools for hybrid instruction."

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Ficarra said that although COVID has impacted many families in the community, the spread has not happened at the schools themselves, so local health officials are not recommending the closing of schools even with the high risk designation.

"This is a testament to the vigilance, professionalism and dedication of our teachers and staff," he said. "I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank every individual who has contributed to our collective success as a school district."

Bridgewater-Raritan High School, currently in its second 14-day closure, is expected to reopen Dec. 2, and no additional closures are planned at this point.

"With that said, school closures may be necessary in the future," Ficarra said. "I would ask that each family develop a plan as there likely would be a short amount of notice given with any closure announcement."

Ficarra said in the letter that there are currently three potential scenarios, the first being that the rate of COVID-19 continues to increase and the region moves to a "very high risk" zone, at which time the Department of Health would direct all districts to move full remote.

In the second, if an individual school has two more positive cases that are not related through contact tracing, the state Department of Health would be contacted, and the individual school may be required to move to remote instruction.

Finally, if an individual school has a large percentage of staff members quarantining or absent, and there is insufficient coverage of classes through substitutes and other available staff members, the individual school could switch to remote temporarily.

The district's COVID-19 dashboard is available on the district website, reflecting the total number of positive cases since Oct. 12, as well as a column for the total number in the current week.

According to the dashboard, since Oct. 12, Adamsville has had three cases, Bradley Gardens had one, Crim had zero, Hamilton had one, John F. Kennedy had two, Milltown had two, Van Holten had zero, Hillside had two, Eisenhower had eight, the middle school had nine and the high school had 39. District support staff recorded eight cases.

"As always, we appreciate our community’s support and cooperation," Ficarra said. "We urge you to assist us by remaining vigilant in your approach to dealing with this health concern. One of the most important ways that you can do this is to quarantine when necessary. Even if your holiday plans do not involve travel outside of the state but put your family in close contact with individuals that are not in your household, you may choose to self-quarantine your children. You can do that by letting the school main office and teachers know that your child will temporarily be participating in full-remote instruction."