SPARTA, NJ – This week Sparta school administrators will be working on plans to have students receive instruction at home, should the district have to close due to Coronavirus concerns.

Sparta Superintendent Michael Rossi said, “We have begun to operationalize the last paragraph of my letter sent this week about Coronavirus.”

Schools around the state have been advised to create plans to deal with “school closure as a potential strategy to limit the transmission [of COVID-19] within a community,” according to a letter from New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet.

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On March 5  Repollet released a letter to chief school administrators following the March 2 “guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health for childcare facilities and k-12 schools.”

The commissioner’s letter said the “most important thing for schools to do now is plan and prepare.”  It also addressed how districts would have to provide home instruction if state or local heath officers required schools to close.

Should that happen, as long as the district is able to ensure every student had access to home instruction, as outlined int NJCA 6A:16-10.1, the day will “count” toward the board of education’s 180-day requirement, as required under NJSA 18A: 7F-9.

According to statute, home instruction could include direct services, online instruction, services provided through contract with another district board of education or any other plan developed by the district to meet the needs of the students.

Rossi said, “We met [Friday] to speak at ‘global’ ideas such as:

  • Internet connectivity and device access
  • Grading and attendance in addition to oversight of progress toward graduation and college,
  • Issues of access, in particular around special needs students and students who require Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech, Nursing…”

Rossi said the food service provider Machio's Food Service, Inc has been part of the conversation about meeting Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.

“We will also need to contemplate co-curricular and athletic continuity, as well as ancillary services such as busing,” Rossi said.

Rossi said the “entire leadership team” will be meeting on Wednesday to set up the plan for delivering home instruction Kindergarten through fifth grade “via remote and digital access.”

He did not discuss the middle school or the high school. 

Friday, March 13 has been scheduled to have a half day of professional development that, according to Rossi, will address home instruction plans.

“We also have the same schedule slated for April 3, which gives two 1/2 days among the next four.  It might be our recommendation to add one or two more depending on outcomes this week,” Rossi said. “Friday will be an important gauge.”

Earlier in the week Rossi sent a letter to the district families sharing the usual illness prevention tips.  The March 3 letter advised preventative health measures including; covering coughs and sneezes, hand washing, getting a flu shot and keeping children home if they are sick.

Rossi’s letter said the district was “utilizing increased and enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures.”  The daily sanitizing efforts have been using “hospital grade and … particularly effective” Puretabs, applied using the district’s electrostatic sprayer.

The New Jersey Department of Health’s document on the COVID-19 outbreak also recommends school administrators should work closely with local health officials when making decisions on dismissals or closures.    It also says even if students are dismissed, schools can remain open for healthy staff members so they may “develop and deliver lessons remotely” and for other staff to continue to provide services.

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 12 at Mohawk Avenue School at 7:30 p.m.  It is a special meeting and the public is invited to attend.