BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District has recognized the seriousness of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and is taking precautions to safeguard students, staff, facilities and the rest of the current academic year.
“We’ve had multiple daily conversations,” said Superintendent Russell Lazovick at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
The conversation will continue as the district will have a half day for students March 16, so staff can have professional development on the situation in the afternoon.
Lazovick said district administrators have been in communication with county and state health officials, receiving continuous overall guidance.
“It’s a community issue,” said Lazovick, with community input needed.
He added that if there is a reasonable expectation of the presence of the coronavirus in a particular home in the district, that home should notify the appropriate school principal, and students from that home should not be sent to school. He also said that school absence requirements cannot be waived if the presence of the coronavirus is not found in a particular home, or if otherwise healthy students are kept home from school simply as a precautionary measure.
Lazovick said the district has checked on both the protocol and products used in cleaning its school facilities, and it has been determined that they meet or exceed regulations regarding COVID-19.
“Currently we’re doing what’s recommended, every single day,” Lazovick said.
The district is also working with Aramark, its food service provider, and its supervisors regarding supplies.
“We did put in last week for extra hand sanitizer,” he said.
He added that sanitizer will be placed in high-traffic areas and on mobile carts in district buildings. He said that any chance individuals get to wash their hands, they should do so, thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds at a time.
School buses in the district are also being cleaned twice a day, and district personnel are scheduled to go through the school buildings Friday, when schools will be closed.
The rental of schools buildings to outside groups is still happening, with rooms cleaned thoroughly before district students return to class. Field trips and related events have also not yet been canceled, except for one involving international travel.
Concerning the possibility of distance learning if the need arises to close the schools for an extended period of time, Lazovick said a countywide meeting was held Monday, with more than 50 school administrators in attendance, along with county and health officials.
A multi-pronged approach was developed if schools need to close for an extended period of time: a health department advisory in writing (of a potential exposure to the population), in order for such school days to count toward the annual allotted amount of 180 days; a written plan in place with the county that has to be approved; and a documentation that the plan with the county is being followed, so the days count toward the 180-day total.
Lazovick said there are nuances between the different school districts, but the district is prepared to ready a distance-learning platform and provide equitable access to students.
Separate communications will go out to the public regarding distance learning, if it is indeed required at some point.
“It’s uncharted territory,” said Lazovick. “Equity of access is the focus.”
Other concerns include internet access and food services, such as in-school breakfasts or meal plans, along with best practices and educational instruction.
“The point of contact should be the school building administration,” said Lazovick regarding questions and concerns, and not social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
He also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website provides the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19, www.cdc.gov.
Lazovick added that while it is important not to under-react to the virus, it was also just as important not to overreact.
“We’re committed to working with everyone, and doing our best for the students,” he said.