WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Public Schools (WOPS) will be distributing a number of resources for both students and parents by the end of this week—including tutorial videos and useful links—in order to help clarify exactly what the school day will look day for students and teachers when the district implements its remote learning plan next week.

Gov. Phil Murphy officially issued an executive order to close all New Jersey schools, effective on March 18, in order to fight back against the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19. The WOPS adjusted its spring break schedule to allow “adequate time to move over to a digital learning model,” which will officially begin on Monday, March 23.  

In the absence of the physical classroom, the district said it is determined to offer “meaningful engagement and opportunities to learn” as well as maintain the services normally provided by the school district during this unprecedented time.

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“Over the course of this week we have been diligently planning for the opening of our virtual school on Monday,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Scott Cascone. “The platform is being finalized and debugged, and we are consistently communicating out advisories relative to Food Services, medication retrieval and academics…

"As for now, I find comfort with the knowledge, as many of you have communicated to me, that we are here for each other in solidarity to remain safe and supportive as a community.”

Earlier this week, the district released information to families about its “aggressive and personalized outreach effort to families in order to identify the specific needs.” Low-income families were encouraged to take advantage of a low-cost Internet service being provided by “Comcast: Internet Essentials,” which can be found BY CLICKING HERE. Other advisories and resources will be shared as they become available.

Details were also shared regarding the district’s plan for food and medication services for student who typically receive these services through the schools.

Guardians of students who require daily medications or medications for chronic health conditions that are stored in the schools are asked to Email the student’s building principal and assistant principal informing them of the need to obtain those medications. According to Kristin Gogerty, Director of Special Services for WOPS, the building administrator, in conjunction with central office administrative staff, will communicate with the school nurse to locate/obtain the medication from the school health office.

Arrangements, including time and pick-up location, will be made directly with the families so they can pick-up the medication as soon as possible.

“We ask that you allow at least two-to-three days for arrangements to be made,” said Kristin Gogerty Director of Special Services for WOPS. “Additionally, in the event of school closures at the county, state, or federal level, this timeline may change. Ultimately, we are trying to ensure that we maintain social distancing protocols to ensure the safety of all stakeholders involved. Thank you for your understanding with this matter.”

A letter has been sent to families about how they can access food services while school is closed, explaining that Maschio’s, the district’s food service provider, will “be in a position to provide meals for [West Orange] students that need them.”

Several options for families that may depend on breakfast and lunch for their students were shared, including the following:

  • Holy Trinity Food Pantry, located at 315 Main Street, will be open from Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to noon in order to provide families with a bag of groceries that will provide items that include peanut butter, jelly, fruit, macaroni and cheese, tuna, shelf-stable milk and bread for several days worth of lunches. (The pantry will also be accepting donations of these items and snacks during these hours.)
  • Bags will also be available from 10 a.m. to noon at West Orange High School, Hazel Elementary School, Gregory Elementary School, Betty Maddalena Early Learning Center and the West Orange Board of Education Administration Office (179 Eagle Rock Avenue)

For more information regarding food services, contact Cynthia Cumming, communications director for West Orange schools and food pantry administrator, at 201-341-9217 or heidlercumming@aol.com.

In the meantime, the district is reminding students that although this week is considered their spring break, it is crucial that they continue to practice social distancing.

“Unlike a typical spring break, play dates and socializing are to be minimized as CDC guidelines suggest,” said Cascone. “The overall rule of thumb, as hard as this may be to accept and do, is to maintain a distance no less than six feet from anyone other than your immediate family.”

On a daily basis, we come together as a community of families, students, staff, and community partners and execute with great precision a tremendously complex undertaking: the education and round-trip transportation of almost 7000 students. What enables us to do this is that we are unified and committed to our respective responsibilities and collective mission. That is exactly what is called for and necessary at this time.