WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Public Schools has officially joined the many New Jersey school systems that are adjusting their schools calendars over the next week to accommodate professional development workshops needed to prepare educators to teach from home in the event that schools are ordered to close for an extended period of time in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

For the first time ever, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has informed all districts that they will be allowed to utilize online learning in order to satisfy the required 180 days of school in the event that the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) orders them to close.

Both entities have advised that all school districts “should be making plans for what to do if there are recommendations for closing schools or canceling events,” as there is a possibility that all New Jersey districts may be asked to close either preemptively or reactively as a result of the spreading virus.

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In response, West Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Scott Cascone announced on Tuesday that the district is in the process of assessing its capacity to provide online instruction to students PreK-12 and that schools will be closed to students on Monday, March 16 in order for staff to “meet and develop instructional plans” in the event of a closure.

“News reports about the coronavirus continue to raise awareness as well as heightened public concern for the potential impact on our home and school communities,” said Cascone, who reiterated that although there have been no presumed or confirmed cases in West Orange and health officials have assured that the immediate risk to the Essex County population remains low, the district is staying updated on the status within New Jersey and the school community.

“We continue to follow the guidance of our local health department and information being conveyed from the State of New Jersey. Communication is ongoing and the situation is being monitored closely across our district.”

In the meantime, West Orange families have been asked to complete an E-Learning Home Readiness Survey by Monday in order to help the district measure Internet access and technology device options at home.

Cascone also addressed some concerns regarding field trips, athletics, school performances and other scenarios that are now being considered “questionable” according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. His message clarifying how the West Orange district plans to address these items can be found BY CLICKING HERE

Several Essex County districts—including Livingston Public Schools, Millburn Township Public Schools, West Essex Regional School District, Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools, South Orange-Maplewood School District, Cedar Grove Schools, Verona Public Schools and Nutley Public Schools—are taking similar measures to ensure that their educators are prepared for this eventuality while others continue to discuss their options. (Click on the links for local coverage from each district.)

After COVID-19 claimed its first New Jersey victim on Tuesday, multiple New Jersey colleges, including nearby campuses such as Rutgers University Newark, Seton Hall, Kean, Montclair State, NJIT and more also announced that they will move all course instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester.

State officials have confirmed the death of a 69-year-old man from Bergen County, and the number of presumed positive cases in the state has reached 15, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. Additionally, more than 30 individuals were under investigation as of Tuesday afternoon.

According to NJDOH officials, the results of investigations that have been announced thus far are based on the state lab, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has yet to further validate the cases.

“We are sad to report the first death in a case of COVID-19 in New Jersey," said Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver in a joint statement. "Our prayers are with the family during this difficult time. We remain vigilant to doing all we can—across all levels of government—to protect the people of New Jersey.”

As presumed positive cases mount statewide, Murphy announced on Tuesday that his administration would look to support consumer access to coronavirus testing—including waiving consumer cost sharing for all medically necessary coronavirus testing. The waiver includes services related to the emergency room, urgent care and office visits related to COVID-19 testing for the state’s individual, small and large group markets.

“As we continue to strengthen our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we must ensure that our residents are focused on their health and not on the cost of medically necessary testing,” said Murphy. “These actions bolster our state’s coordinated response and preparedness efforts by eliminating affordability concerns for New Jerseyans.”

There have been no confirmed cases in Essex County. Of the additional four cases announced on Tuesday, two are individuals from Bergen County and two are from Burlington County.

The other presumed positive cases announced in New Jersey thus far are as follows: 

  • A 61 year old from Cherry Hill (Camden County)
  • An 18 year old from Clifton (Passaic County)
  • A 48 year old from Berkeley Heights (Union County)
  • A 27-year-old man from Little Silver (Monmouth County)
  • An 83-year-old woman from Hazlet (Monmouth County)
  • A 30 year old from Teaneck (Bergen County) 
  • A 70-year-old male healthcare worker from Teaneck (Bergen County)
  • A 32-year-old man from West New York (Hudson County)
  • A 32-year-old Fort Lee man (Bergen County)
  • A 55-year-old Englewood man (Bergen County)
  • An Englewood woman in her 30’s (Bergen County)