ROXBURY, NJ – The discovery of eight cases of COVID-19 is forcing a 3-week-long return, starting Tuesday (Nov. 24), to all-virtual instruction for students attending Eisenhower Middle School and Roxbury High School, it was announced today.

The decision, announced by Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic, was made after school administrators met last weekend with local health officials to discuss the discovery of three cases at the middle school and five at the high school, Radulic said.

At least one of the cases marks the first time the disease appears to have been spread within Roxbury schools, she added. Up until now, there were no documented cases of COVID-10 transmission between people in the school buildings.

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Radulic said the return to full closure of the two schools will last through Dec. 11. She left open the possibility that similar actions could take place with the township’s elementary schools.

Short-lived 'Phase II' for High School and Middle School

“As is typical for 2020, situations can change rapidly,” warned the superintendent. “Therefore, while our other school buildings have not experienced the same dramatic outbreak and will remain open, please be aware and prepared for the possibility that other schools may transfer to remote learning as appropriate and necessary.”

The decision comes only a week after the school district moved into “Phase II” of its plan to eventually re-open its buildings fully.

We are not alone,” said Roxbury Board of Education President Carol Scheneck at Monday night’s virtual board meeting. “There are neighboring districts going through the same thing that have had a return to virtual instruction, some until January … Needless to say, this is very distressing but it reflects a rise in numbers in our nation and our state.”

Radulic said the health experts called for a 2-week closure but, due to the holidays, an extra week was added.

“I do hope to return to the best educational situation possible, which is being in school,” she said. Because the district has not reached the most critical level in terms of required action, it does have “some capability to remain in-person.”

It Was Looking Good for A While

In a letter to parents, the superintendent pointed to the way the district, for the most part, has kept the disease at bay.

“When some believed we would only make it two weeks in September, we moved forward with our carefully constructed re-opening plans, determined to provide an opportunity for teachers and their students to build rapport, to ease anxiety and to support social emotional needs” wrote Radulic. “Through our collective efforts, we succeeded not for two weeks, but for two and a half months and were able to move into Phase II. Thank you for your determination and careful attention to health and wellness protocols that made all of this possible.”

Even if Roxbury remains relatively free of the disease, the schools would be forced to return to all-remote instruction “if the Northwest region of New Jersey should move into the ‘very high risk’ category,” Radulic said.

“Parents should prepare for the possibility of needing increased childcare, and activities involving interactions with multiple cohorts of children should be restricted,” she added. “While temporarily moving into remote learning is a possibility that should be discussed and planned for within families, there is hope. There are several different pharmaceutical companies preparing the first steps in providing us with a COVID-19 vaccine which is scheduled to become available by mid-December.”

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