WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Although there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the Caldwell-West Caldwell are thus far, the Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools district has made the decision to close until March 20 in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Students will follow an early-dismissal schedule on Friday so that staff members can finalize their remote instruction plans, which will officially be enacted on Monday via Google Classroom and other learning platforms, Email and traditional paper/pencil activities. According to the district, paper options will also be provided for any digital assignments to ensure that everyone has access to learning materials.

“Social distancing is known to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and we want to take every precaution to protect the safety and wellness of all community members,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Heinegg. “Local health officials have strongly advised that students should continue to practice social distancing even when schools are closed.”

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The superintendent acknowledged the “significant impact that a change like this can have” on the community, stating that the district “did not come to the decision lightly.”

“We anticipate that this may well last longer than one week, but we will update everyone as quickly as possible regarding next steps,” said Heinegg, adding that more information regarding student learning plans for next week will be shared by 5 p.m. on Friday, and daily updates will be provided by noon and posted to the district website throughout the week.

All district events scheduled through Sunday, March 22—including the Grover Cleveland Middle School March Madness fundraiser, the SAT at James Caldwell High School and the Caldwell Community Center Coffee House—will be postponed or canceled.

Local private schools are also taking certain precautions to ensure the health and safety of their students, including Trinity Academy in Caldwell, which services grades K-8. 

Trinity Academy Linda Payonzeck, who recently attended a work session by the Archdiocese of Newark to discuss a home-schooling option, said the school will dismiss students at noon on Monday in order to proactively provide its staff time to prepare instruction in case of a health-related closure.

Some other adjustments Trinity Academy recently made in response to the outbreak include:

  • Installing new, hands-free soap, paper towel and toilet paper dispensers as well as wall-mounted hand sanitizers in the cafeteria and nurse's office;
  • Planning to install an additional six wall-mounted in the gym and each of the main hallways;
  • Daily cleaning of hard surfaces such as, handrails, doorknobs, faucets, etc. with Chlorox wipes and Lysol; and
  • Discontinuing the use of certain toys/activities in Pre-K classrooms for the health of the children, including the use of dress-up clothes and Play-Doh for the time being.

Neighboring districts continue to release information regarding their COVID-19 action plans. Some districts, like Livingston Public Schools, have announced long-term closures of at least two weeks while others, like West Essex Regional School District and West Orange Public Schools, await official directions from the state.