CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa broached the possibility that there will be no return to school this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic in a letter sent to parents on Friday, April 3.

LaSusa's full message to parents is below: 

Dear Parent,

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I hope that your family is holding up during this time and that you are doing what you can to remain healthy and sane.  I would like to again thank you for the many supportive email messages and kudos you have paid our staff as we do the best we can during a previously unfathomable situation.  I would also like to thank those of you who have become involved in the various volunteer and philanthropic efforts that have sprung up in our community to help support our frontline health workers and first responders. Your efforts are inspiring to all of us! Finally, I have been heartened to see messages of connections sent to our students, like this one from Lafayette Avenue School and this one from Chatham High School.  As we head into spring break, here are a few updates.

Duration of School Closure

Earlier this week, President Trump announced a “Slow the Spread” campaign that extends social distancing guidelines through the month of April.  Governor Murphy has also indicated on multiple occasions that New Jersey will be facing difficult circumstances at least into the month of May.  While neither of these developments constitutes a definitive order regarding school closure, it is clear that we will not be returning to school within the month.  It is certainly possible that we will not be back in school this year.

Despite the aforementioned prospect, we will remain hopeful that we will return for at least a portion of this year until we are told otherwise.  One of the reasons that we are not canceling spring break in order to end the school year earlier is that if we do return for a portion of the year, we will want to maximize the number of “real” school days we have remaining.  For example, if Governor Murphy were to announce that schools will resume on May 20, we would want to have as many school days as possible left prior to June 18, our final day. If we are fortunate enough to return to school, we would also use our remaining snow days prior to the return so that we are in school every day possible over the final month.  

Should I learn of any update to the timetable for the return to school, I will communicate it to you immediately.

Instruction and Grading

We continue to evaluate our instructional practices during the closure and make adjustments accordingly.  We are expanding our use of video-based lessons and activities, and there will be other changes that we will implement upon the return from spring break.  In terms of grading, we will be moving to a version of a Pass/Fail system at the K-8 level for the final grading period of the year. At the high school, we are modifying the semester grading format such that students’ grades through March 13 will constitute the vast majority of their overall grade for the year, but that students will also have the opportunity to improve on their grade through the completion of assignments in the online setting.

Your child’s principal and teachers will communicate specific information and detail about the above adjustments prior to April 13. 

Resources

As I am unable to wish you and your children a restful and typical spring break, here are few resources that might help pass the time, both next week and beyond.

Wide Open School: This is a Common Sense Media site with a broad range of school and family resources.

Virtual Rest and Relaxation Room: A number of staff members in our counseling department put together this site to promote student health and well-being.

Morris County Trail System: While parks and fields are closed, there are still trails open that allow one to enjoy the outdoors while not being near any other people.

Spring Break Activities from Somerset County:  I have attached to this email a document with a list of activities shared by another superintendent.

Finally, CLICK HERE to see something that reflects the upside of living in an age of innovation.  Our choral director, Ken Bryson, asked his Chatham Voices students to use their cell phones to record “Truth,” by Andrea Ramsey.  Each student did their solo rendition in isolation at their homes this week. Then they sent their pieces to Mr. Bryson, he shared it with our performing arts supervisor, James Lawrence, and he put them all together for our first-ever Virtual Voices performance.  I hope you enjoy it!

Sincerely,

Michael LaSusa