MORRISOWN, NJ - Morris School District Mackey Pendergrast sent an email to the Morristown school community on Friday morning, October 30.
Pendergrast said that "collaboratively constructed plans along with the extraordinary work of teachers, counselors, and staff and the ongoing resilience of the entire district community have helped us stay the course in these difficult times. I am very grateful for everyone’s dedicated, concerted effort throughout the school reopening process", he said.
The district has been able to remain open to in-person learning as well as provide virtual instruction to all students, despite several cases of COVID-19.
"However, we can not let our gueard down", said Pendergrast. " We are now seeing a significant increase in new cases in our local area and increasing rates of transmission, positivity (up to 20% in places), and hospitalization throughout NJ.
Pendergrast asked the school community to prepare for the possibility of increased periodic classroom and school closures, which may be announced with little warning.
Superintendent Pendergrast's full message to parents can be read below:
Dear Morris School District Community:
Throughout the summer we focused on meticulous, transparent planning in order to create an architecture--one anchored in science and in the needs of our community--that could withstand and adapt to the uncertain impact of the coronavirus. Collaboratively constructed plans along with the extraordinary work of our teachers, counselors, and staff and the ongoing resilience of the entire district community have helped us stay the course in these difficult times. I am very grateful for everyone’s dedicated, concerted effort throughout the school reopening process. As a result, our district has been able to remain open for in-person instruction and provide meaningful virtual instruction at every grade level for the first two months, thus giving our students an important foundation for moving forward this year.
However, we cannot let our guard down. We are now seeing a significant increase in new cases in our local area and increasing rates of transmission, positivity (up to 20% in places), and hospitalization throughout NJ. Although the trajectory of the data is daunting, we have learned some key lessons in these opening months that can help guide us in the next phase.
I wanted to share a few important reminders derived from the MSD’s lessons learned so far:
The combination of mask wearing, six feet of social distancing, and proper hand hygiene is a potent mitigation strategy that greatly reduces the threat of coronavirus spreading in our community. Evidence shows nationwide that there has been little transmission occurring within the school setting itself. This fact bodes well for our potential to extend students’ time in school later this year if Morris County’s coronavirus risk level returns to low and if other external and internal conditions allow.
Cases in the Morris School District have, however, been traced to transmission in family or other social settings outside of school--and they don’t necessarily involve large gatherings. It is critical that we continue to be diligent about following faithfully and consistently all recommended protective measures (especially mask wearing and social distancing) both in and out of school, even when we are spending time with close family and friends.
Relatedly, please be especially cautious if you eat meals with others who are not part of your immediate household. Eating with friends, colleagues, or extended family introduces risk whenever social distancing and mask wearing cannot be maintained.
New research suggests that transmission can occur even when an individual is exposed to an infectious person in short intervals--15 minutes’ cumulative time within 24 hours, which could mean three separate interactions of 5 minutes each. This underscores the importance of wearing a mask (both you and those around you) and remaining at least six feet apart.
The upcoming holidays may bring additional challenges to our community’s ability to prevent the spread of coronavirus: college students returning home, families travelling to other locations, more indoor events, etc. While we all hope to have a chance to relax and recharge during days off from school, please think carefully before planning vacations and holiday get-togethers. A fourteen-day quarantine is required for anyone who returns from travel to an area on the NJ Travel Advisory List (which currently includes 41 states and territories), so please proceed with the appropriate caution when it comes to non-essential personal travel.
With the change in weather and the holiday season approaching, we should prepare for the possibility of an increase in periodic classroom or school closures, which may be announced with little warning. In order to ensure the safety of our staff, students, and families, and to minimize the disruption to our in-school schedules, we must keep modeling the very best behaviors and practices in school, in our families, and in the community.
Thank you for your continued support.
Superintendent of Schools