LIVINGSTON, NJ — The process for notifying the Livingston Public Schools (LPS) community when someone tests positive for COVID-19 has been updated based on public feedback after the district saw its first three internal cases of the novel coronavirus last week. Hours after changing these protocols, the district announced that two additional cases were discovered among staff members, bringing the total number of cases within the LPS community to five as of Tuesday.
According to Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block, one of the five reported cases was connected to a student athlete who had not been inside the schools, while the other cases were reported among staff members who contracted the virus “outside the school setting.” The two staff members who received positive test results this week, which included one staff member from Burnet Hill Elementary School and one from Livingston High School, are also coaches in the fall high school athletic program, Block said.
In response to many parents who requested that the district notify the entire LPS community when a new case is discovered, Block announced that the official LPS COVID-19 Communication Protocols—which can be found HERE—have been adjusted to accommodate this request.
“[With each reported case], we implemented our communications protocols, which was to inform any families of students who are directly in contact with the positive case, and then all members of the school community,” said Block. “We did receive some feedback that even though a particular child or particular school may not have been impacted, people would have been appreciative of a whole district communication, so we have amended our protocols at this point...
“The protocols outline and remind folks about communicating with us through our Email addresses—LPSvirtual@livingston.org and firstname.lastname@example.org—to provide questions and feedback. The last bullet now says notification will go to all Livingston Public Schools families, and the letter will indicate in which school the case occurred and whether it is believed the virus was transmitted within the school or outside of the school setting.”
The superintendent also addressed the responsibilities of the pandemic response teams that have been established at each of Livingston’s nine schools as required by the New Jersey Board of Education’s recovery plan, “The Road Back.”
“Each school has been directed in ‘The Road Back’ to establish a school-based pandemic response team to centralize, expedite and implement COVID-19-related decision-making and talk through COVID-19-related issues,” said Block. “Each of our schools has already established a response team—including principals, teachers, child study team members, school counselors, supervisors, school nurses, school safety personnel, members of the school safety team custodians and parents.”
Block added that each school’s response team has been charged with nominating a liaison that will report back to the district and that the administration has already begun collecting minutes from their meetings.
“It's a new structure, but I know that it gives the principals and supervisors a chance to work with a group as we navigate unchartered waters,” the superintendent said.
According to Block, some issues that each school’s pandemic response teams is charged with handling include:
- Overseeing the school's implementation of health and safety measures;
- Adjusting the health and safety protocols as needed;
- Speaking with staff and providing support and training as needed;
- Monitoring health data within the school;
- Developing procedures to foster a safe and supportive school climate; and
- Providing communication to the school community and centralized to the district.
Reiterating that each of these first few COVID-19 cases came from outside the school facilities, Block once again urged all community members to help keep the schools open by continuing to take preventative measures such as wearing face masks in public areas and practicing social distancing.
“They are finding statewide that most cases that are coming into schools are brought in from an outside contact at a social gathering or a party or an event that happens outside of school,” said Block. “[This] underscores the importance of making sure that we are not only practicing good social distancing and masking and hand hygiene in school, but doing that out of school as well.”
Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) President Ronnie Konner joined him in emphasizing the need for students, parents, teachers and the community at-large to help contain the virus.
During a recent meeting between Konner, Dr. Block, LBOE Vice President Samantha Messer, LPS Business Administrator Steve Robinson, Livingston Township Manager Barry Lewis, Mayor Rudy Fernandez and Deputy Mayor Shawn Klein, the two governing bodies discussed ways to collaborate on promoting “community cooperation” when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope to partner with the council and to share what the guidelines are that are being jointly developed with guidance from the health department,” said Konner, adding that the two governing bodies have requested that the local health department to share protocols for community events unrelated to the schools, such as Halloween. “Recognizing that in order to be able to keep the schools open, we need to keep people healthy and it’s a community-wide effort…We agreed to set up future meetings as needed for community concerns and also to keep the lines of communication open.”
Konner also expressed her “sincere appreciation for the township in working together with [the school district] during this time of uncertainty of funding.”
“They really stepped forward to make sure that the school district would have the funds that we needed, so we definitely extended our thanks to them for that,” said Konner.
Many of the Livingston district’s COVID-19 communication protocols have been taken directly from the New Jersey Department of Health's "COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments for K-12 Schools."
According to Block, Livingston High School staff members worked remotely on Tuesday as the district conducted thorough contact-tracing efforts and cleaned the school. More information about the two most recent COVID-19 cases found at LPS can be found in Dr. Block's Oct. 13 message to the community BY CLICKING HERE.
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