HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Dr. Lisa M. Antunes, Acting Superintendent of Schools, announced this morning that all Hillsborough public schools will be closed for the next two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The letter also provides answers to questions regarding COVID-19.
Following is the text of her letter posted to the school district's website:
March 13, 2020
"Dear HTPS community,
"What an unprecedented time we are currently experiencing as a community and I would like to thank all who have taken the time to share thoughts, concerns, and suggestions over the past several weeks. District administrators have been in contact with our local health department, our district physician, New Jersey Department of Education officials, Somerset County superintendents, and other professionals in order to best address the situation confronting us.
"As information and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is updated, we, too must adjust our plans and decision-making protocols. While currently there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hillsborough, there have been cases confirmed throughout Somerset County.
"Additionally, you may be aware that Governor Murphy has declared a “public health emergency” and has recommended that large gatherings (250 people or more) be cancelled to leverage social distancing practices. Therefore, effective Monday, March 16, all Hillsborough Township Public Schools will be closed for a minimum of two weeks and will follow a flexible learning schedule.
"The scheduled March 20 in-service day is now a flexible learning day for all students and staff. All extra curricular activities, including athletic events, are postponed or cancelled until further notice. Additionally, all use of facilities by outside organizations are cancelled until further notice. We will continue careful monitoring as details surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic unfold and provide periodic updates to the community; especially as the extension of school closures or additional revisions to the school calendar may be necessary.
""As you are already aware, today, Friday, March 13 is a half day for our students. Teachers will have the opportunity to communicate their expectations to students regarding the logistics of our flexible learning plan. Students will also have the ability to retrieve their belongings and give our teachers a chance to distribute any items they will need for an extended school closure.
"Additional information about the expectations and plan for flexible learning will be sent within 48 hours and additional information will be provided by either your building administrator and/or teacher(s). There are many questions for which answers are elusive, and we will continue to be faced with challenges that are impossible to predict, however, we will continue to make our best efforts to support our students and staff. While not ideal, it is certainly an opportunity to work beyond our comfort zones and ensure that in accordance with guidelines from the NJ Department of Education, these flexible learning days will count as days toward the 180-day requirement."
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions:
When will schools reopen and how will spring break be affected?
At this time we have been advised to plan for a minimum closing of two (2) to four (4) weeks. Two weeks brings us to March 30, which is the week before spring break, which begins on Monday, April 6. More information will be forthcoming on the reopening of schools.
Will extra / co- curricular activities such as athletics, concerts, plays, junior prom and other events be affected?
All extra / co- curricular activities such as athletics, concerts, plays, junior prom, and athletics are postponed until further notice. Please note that this includes our final two performances of Footloose (this weekend) at Hillsborough High School. All patrons who have purchased tickets this weekend will be contacted directly by a member of the HHS Theatre department.
Will transportation be provided to my child(ren) who attend an out-of-district placement?
No, students will not be transported to out-of-district schools
Will lunch be available for students during this time?
Based upon the guidance provided by the Department of Agriculture, lunch will not be provided at this time. Should the situation change, we will immediately notify the community.
Will Catholic Charities run if schools are closed?
No. Catholic Charities will not be available if schools are closed.
Will students have access to the building if they forget something?
If the state mandates the closure of all schools, then students will not have access to the building.
If schools are closed by the county as a proactive measure for the health and well being of our staff and students, then students may be able to have access to the building.
When will I know about the flexible learning plan provided for my child(ren)?
Communication about the expectations and plan for flexible learning will be sent within 48 hours and additional information will be provided by either your building administrator and/or teacher(s).
Will outside organizations have access to our school district facilities during this closure?
No. Since our school buildings are closed, school district facilities are not available for use by outside organizations. This measure is being taken for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to the ability for our custodial and maintenance staffs to complete the necessary cleaning and disinfecting regimen in preparation for the reopening of schools.
""During the two (2) weeks schools are closed, the Health Department recommends that, in addition to continuing all general good hygiene practices, please refrain from frequenting areas where large groups of people are congregating or where social distancing cannot be suitably practiced.
I would like to emphasize that at the time of this writing, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hillsborough Township. I cannot adequately express my genuine appreciation to the Hillsborough community, (including our students, staff members, and administrators) for your flexibility, patience and support during this extraordinary time. I will keep the community informed and updated of our plans as quickly and effectively as possible over the next few days and weeks."
Bridgewater-Raritan public schools have also announced it would close all buildings and implement a distance learning regimen; Somerville public schools also announced it was closing its buildings and immediately adapt a distance learning strategy.
Health officials yesterday announced a presumptive case of (COVID-19) in Bridgewater, which if confirmed by further testing, would be the first case in Somerset County.
Five states including Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon have shut down their schools; Kentucky is also close to doing the same.
New Jersey has 29 confirmed cases of (COVID-19), with one death in Bergen County. Nationwide, there are over 1,000 cases, with 40 deaths reported; the first case was reported in Alaska yesterday, becoming the 44th state to confirm the virus.
With more than 135,000 cases of (COVID-19) worldwide, closures, shutdowns and cancellations continue to mount - The NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball have canceled games; Disneyland and Disney world are closing their amusement parks; The NCAA and the NJSIAA have canceled basketball tournaments. The Diocese of Newark canceled masses this Sunday. Broadway shows are shutting down.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has recommended against gatherings of more than 250 people while New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio declared a state of emergency.