CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa sent out an update correspondence to district parents on Friday, telling them to plan for a closure past the original two-week span. He also said that Spring Break will begin April 4, as planned.

"Our schools will remain closed until such time that the Governor lifts the executive order and issues guidance about the resumption of public schooling," LaSusa said in the letter. "As a result, you should plan for a closure beyond next week and possibly much longer. Spring Break remains unchanged on our school calendar, so distance learning will remain in place through April 3, which is the Friday before Spring Break, and continue so long as the executive order remains in effect."

The full letter from LaSusa can be read below.

Sign Up for Chatham Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Dear Parent,

As we complete our first week of distance learning, I would like to thank you for your patience, flexibility, and efforts in helping your children continue to engage in their school experience.  I would also like to extend my sincerest appreciation to all of you who have sent words of encouragement and positive feedback to our staff.

It has not been a perfect transition, and we will continue to make adjustments and improvements as we enter our second week.  Our principals and supervisory staff have been communicating all week with staff and also meeting virtually to assess our practices, troubleshoot issues, and make determinations about how to get better.  Please continue to correspond with your child’s teachers and building principals about specific questions you may have. You will receive more information from them as we move forward, including about grading and report cards, scheduling, and other issues that must be addressed at this time of the year.  Below I am sharing information about topics or concerns that impact the entire district.

Duration of School Closure

On Monday of this week, Governor Murphy issued an Executive Order that closes all schools in New Jersey indefinitely.  Therefore, superintendents do not have the authority to open schools.  Our schools will remain closed until such time that the Governor lifts the executive order and issues guidance about the resumption of public schooling.  As a result, you should plan for a closure beyond next week and possibly much longer. Spring Break remains unchanged on our school calendar, so distance learning will remain in place through April 3, which is the Friday before Spring Break, and continue so long as the executive order remains in effect.

School Fields

Yesterday afternoon, the Morris County Office of Emergency Management issued an emergency declaration closing all playing fields and parks in Morris County.  Parks remain open for passive recreation, meaning activities like walking or running, but are absolutely closed for group activities.  Please DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CHILDREN TO CONGREGATE IN GROUPS at school district fields and properties. New Jersey is in the midst of a public health crisis and it is critical for everyone to practice the social distancing and other recommendations of the CDC and Department of Health.

Video Conferencing

Many of our staff members have been using Google Hangout Meets or other video-conferencing programs as a method of connecting and communicating with students.  This method of communication is likely to expand, but it is not something that will occur universally throughout the district for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with student or staff privacy issues, and some of which have to do with the individual circumstances of the 4,000+ students and 400+ staff members.  Our staff will continue to draw upon a variety of resources to carry out distance learning.

Mental Health Resources

This is a worrisome and stressful time for everyone.  We have updated our Covid-19 resources page to include resources for students who may need some additional support.  Our counseling staff is also available to our students; many students have been communicating regularly with their school counselors and all students are encouraged to do so.

On a final note, I would like to offer a reflection about time and time limits.  Last Friday, March 13, the last day students were physically in school, marked the 120th day of the school year.  We had completed two-thirds of the year by that point, with the final third lying ahead of us. The one cohort of our students that cannot get back any time that we are now losing is our seniors.  If we remain out of school for weeks or months, they do not get to extend their time at CHS beyond June 30 or into next fall. I feel much disappointment for these students and I think they are losing the most in terms of their final lap in our school district.

All of our other cohorts of students have more time.  While it will be complicated and require some creative thinking to address whatever these students missed during this school closure, when we are back on our feet and back in school, we will be able to develop systems and programs to fill in the gaps created by this closure (even if the closure is one-third of this school year).  Our youngest learners have the most time remaining before graduation, while our older learners have less. But they will all have time. For now, we will soldier through the school closure as best we can, aim to provide as many learning experiences and resources to students as possible, and take it one week at a time.

Today is Friday and the forecast calls for a 75-degree day.  I hope that you are able to get outside and walk, run, or do yard work, and that you enjoy the weekend.  Thank you again for all of your contributions to our school week this past week.

Sincerely,

Mike LaSusa