HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Following guidance from the state Department of Education, the Hillsborough School District is working on contingency plans to close all schools and institute “distance learning” via online instruction and other means in response to the continued spread of the Coronavirus.
Meanwhile, South Brunswick schools will close Monday to allow staff and teachers to fine tune their plans in the event schools are ordered to close.
New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-7th, whose congressional district in central New Jersey includes Hilllsborough, hosted a conference call Friday with hospital and community health care administrators and executives to exchange information on what is being done locally and in Washington to prepare for any potential problems.
There are now six confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in New Jersey, four in Bergen County, one in Passaic and one in Camden County, according to the state Department of Health.
The NJDOH on Sunday said an additional 27 New Jersey residents with symptoms are are currently under investigation in Bergen (9); Camden, (1); Cumberland, (2); Essex (3);, Hunterdon, (2); Middlesex, (2); Monmouth,(4); Union, (3) and Sussex(1).
The death toll in the United States has now reached 18 victims, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. There are now well over 100,000 cases worldwide.
Dr. Lisa M. Antunes, Acting Supt. of Schools in Hillsborough, distributed an update to the school community Friday that details what actions are being taken in the event state authorities require schools to be shut down. Her letter reads:
“New Jersey school districts received new guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education on March 5 emphasizing that the most important thing for schools to do at this time is to plan and prepare, in the event that “schools may be asked to close preemptively or reactively . . .”
“She continues, “ The NJDOH guidance identifies school closure as a potential strategy to limit transmission within a community; therefore, in the event a board of education is provided a written directive by either the NJDOH or the health officer of the jurisdiction to institute a public health related closure, the board of education may utilize other methods to provide instructional services to enrolled students.
“Please be assured that we are working to develop realistic and reasonable plans to provide instruction and support students in the event of a district-wide, long-term mandatory closure,” she continued.
“There are many pieces to this puzzle that must include equitable access to instruction for all students including provisions for special education and related services for students with disabilities. We will share timely information as we develop a plan that best addresses the needs of the students and staff of Hillsborough.”
The full text of the superintendent’s letter can be read online at the Hilsborough School District website, https.us.
“While the situation continues to evolve in real time it is important that our health care providers and all levels of government be in regular communication to better serve and educate the public,” Malinowski said following the Friday conference call.
Participants stressed that they are communicating daily with their teams and are working aggressively to prepare for the possibility of an uptick in cases, according to the congressman.
“It’s vital that the response to this outbreak be led by our nation’s public health experts, and that they have the resources and information they need to respond effectively,” Malinowski said. “I will continue to maintain regular communication with our healthcare leaders, and keep my constituents updated as we move forward.”
South Brunswick Schools posted a letter on its website explaining the half-day closure on Monday:
“As always, the students and staff of South Brunswick are our number one priority, and we want to do what is right for our students and be prepared should a “school dismissal” become necessary.” the letter reads,
“The health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff are our top priorities. Remember, being prepared does not correlate to increased concern, but not being prepared is simply irresponsible, and we will always err on the side of caution over irresponsibility”