As some schools began to open for in-person learning, several in New Jersey had positive coronavirus cases, causing schools to rethink their reopening plans. In a letter to parents and staff dated Friday October 3, Princeton School District revealed a confirmed case of COVID-19 but said that after consulting with the Department of Health, they would continue with plans to reopen schools starting Monday October 5.
“The Princeton Department of Health has confirmed that a staff member at Community Park has tested positive for COVID-19,” read the letter. “The Department of Health has already been in touch with PPS staff who might have had any prolonged contact with this individual. The staff member will continue to be monitored and quarantined for at least 14 days.”
“The staff member was at Community Park on Wednesday and had limited contact with other staff members. No students were present. The staff member was described by the Princeton Health Department as being asymptomatic.”
“The Princeton Health Department has advised the district that Community Park can open on October 5 for Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grade 1 students as planned.”
Other school boards in New Jersey, such as Paterson, are lobbying to keep schools closed indefinitely. The Paterson Board of Education argued that since there were other cases of COVID-19 found in schools that did reopen, the plan to bring students back in November is just too soon.
In Hazlet, two positive cases of coronavirus at Raritan Valley Elementary School have led the district to suspend in-person learning at that school for two weeks.
Meanwhile, in East Brunswick, there was a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 and two presumptive positive cases, said Victor Valeski, Superintendent of Schools.
“I want to assure the EB community that we have taken immediate proactive measures to quarantine all “close contacts” relative to today’s cases,” said Valeski in a letter to parents. “The number of identified students and staff is significant because it includes two presumptive cases that we are acting on out of extreme caution and for the protection of our schools’ populations.”
The decision was made to keep East Brunswick schools open.
“None of the positive or presumptive COVID cases reported today are the result of person to person transmissions within our schools,” explained Valeski. “We have documented that these transmissions have occurred outside of schools.”
The New Jersey Department of Health has offered guidelines on when schools should close, and when people should quarantine.
According to the COVID-19 Regional Risk Matrix, schools should remain open when there is a confirmed case, though students and staff in close contact with positive cases should be “excluded from school for 14 days.” When there are two or more cases in the same classroom, school remains open and students and staff in close contact with positive case are excluded from school for 14 days. “Recommendations for whether the entire classroom would be considered exposed will be based on public health investigation,” advises the Department of Health.