All four Bergen County Technical District high schools will be closed to on-site instruction beginning this Monday through "at least" Jan. 15 because of positive coronavirus tests, officials announced Friday.
More than 20 students and 10 or so staff members need to be quarantined following positive tests at two of the schools, Supt. Howard Lerner said.
As a result, he said, "the instructional and student support programs in all four high schools will operate fully remotely for students, faculty, and staff during this time, as they did from September through October 2nd.
"In-person athletics and other co-curricular activities are suspended," Lerner added. "Where possible, remote alternatives will replace them until our school buildings reopen.
"We already know that COVID-19 infection and transmission rates are rising, in Bergen and in much of New Jersey," Lerner wrote in an email Friday to administrators, faculty, staff and parents."We also know that our school calendar is already full of “disruptions” from holidays in November and December, and that some of those holidays come with traditions of family and other gatherings that will add more challenges to the protection of public health," he added.
The schools opened this week with a "hybrid schedule of half-time attendance and shortened school days," the superintendent wrote.
"Our hope and plan were to work our way up, in terms of how long on-site instruction was provided each day and eventually to increase the number of days each student could safely attend school on-site," he explained.
That all changed with the positive results of COVID tests.
"Our district is unique because we receive students from every town in the county, and we send those students back home to each of those towns at the end of the day," Lerner noted.
"Our operational decisions can impact public health in every corner of Bergen County," the superintendent wrote.
Among the factors working against keeping the buildings open in the short term, Lerner wrote:
- the "challenge of covering such large numbers of unplanned staff absences (in addition to our regular absences)";
- the "invisibility and high contagiousness of COVID-19 itself";
- the "fact that we had two episodes of infection before the end of our first week of on-site instruction."
Lerner said he decided to close the schools after consulting Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and Director/Health Officer for the Bergen County Department of Health Services Hansel F. Asmar.
"We will continuously monitor internal dynamics (e.g., student learning, student and staff attendance, social-emotional well-being, etc.), as well as community health conditions, and I will share updates with everyone periodically," Lerner wrote.
"We will assess the viability of resuming on-site instruction after the start of the New Year and communicate a formal decision prior to January 15th.
"I understand the frustration and disappointment some in our school community will feel about this decision," the superintendent added. "Students should be in school; and I know that the disruptions to learning, mental health and family needs resulting from continued remote instruction are substantial.
"We will do everything we can to continue developing the breadth and rigor of our remote student engagement; and we will do everything possible to get students back into our schools as soon as we can do so in a safe manner…for our students and their families, for our staff and their families, and for our shared communities.
"Thank you, as always, for your energy, flexibility, and commitment to excellence. With continued teamwork, we will not only 'manage' this situation but find new ways to grow from it," Lerner concluded.
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