SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – School districts throughout the Garden State, at the advisement of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), must develop a preparedness plan for the provision of home instruction to students in the event of a closure due to a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

This past week, State DOE Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet and his staff have been reaching out to school districts throughout the state all week via conference calls and face-to-face meetings to develop a comprehensive strategy. Under the plan, should a district be forced to close due to COVID-19, home instruction days would count toward the required 180-day school year and, therefore, not be required to be made up over the summer.

In South Plainfield, the Office of the Superintendent sent out an online survey (Home Connectivity and Device Survey) first on March 4 and again on March 6 asking parents and guardians to provide details on the types of technology and online options available at home. While the district, stated Superintendent Dr. Noreen Lishak, has  1:1 devices for students in fifth through 12 grade, there are currently not enough 1:1 devices for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. 

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“…Although we do not need to enact such a plan at this time, the district is preparing in the event that such an outbreak occurs," stated Lishak. 

Earlier this week, the superintendent’s office also sent out an email to all parents/guardians, faculty and staff stating 'although there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Plainfield…administration, in conjunction with the district nursing staff, and the Office of Emergency Management have reviewed and updated the [district’s] Pandemic Influenza Plan to include COVD-19 and the procedures for addressing such an outbreak.'

In her March 2 email, Lishak stated that District Policy 8451 (Control of Communicable Disease) provides guidance and compliance measures so that all district decisions and actions are in line with New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and Middlesex County Board of Health directives and regulations. 

“…The district, in partnership with the local, county, and state health departments are closely monitoring the situation and have taken steps to ensure our students and faculty are informed of best practices for limiting the spread of any virus,” said the superintendent. 

South Plainfield’s preparedness plan also includes best practices for maintaining district operations and facilities in light of possible contagions as well as keeping open lines of communication with students, parents, faculty, and staff. District officials advise students who are ill with respiratory symptoms, flu-like illness, or diarrhea/vomiting remain home for 24 hours without a fever or without diarrhea/vomiting. A child’s absence and their symptoms should also be reported to the respective school nurse as well as the primary health care provider. 

In the efforts to help keeps people healthy and reduce the spread of diseases such as COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the following: wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available; avoid contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick and avoid contact with others; cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing; and routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The South Plainfield School District, stated Lishak, has also been taking additional measures to disinfect and clean school facilities and, last week, age-appropriate information on how to reduce the spread of germs was provided by nursing staff during the school day. Students were also encouraged to engage in a question and answer session to help them fully understand the importance of proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. 

“Education and prevention are of the upmost priority,” said Lishak, adding, “We intend to closely monitor the situation and make any decision regarding school closures in partnership with the Middlesex County Board of Health, the South Plainfield Health Officer, and the Office of Emergency Management.”

Updates on the coronavirus will be posted on the South Plainfield School District website at www.spboe.org. 

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