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Increasing Coronavirus Impact On Schools Forces Return To Remote Learning


With about 150 school staffers out due to COVID-19-related issues, the school district on December 15 decided to temporarily pause in-person learning.

The district will revert to remote learning from December 21 through January 19, according to a letter to parents from schools Superintendent John Ravally.

Ravally wrote that on December 15, the district had “over 100 certificated staff members on leave, in quarantine or in isolation” and when one adds “support staff members the number goes above 150 staff members absent with Covid-19 connections.”

Less than 80 staffers were out due to leave, illness or Covid-related quarantine or isolation when schools opened for in-person learning on November 30, Ravally wrote.

“Thankfully, as confirmed by the Somerset County Health Department, it appears that none of those cases were transmitted through the schools, however just the same, this sudden increase in the number of staff impacted by Covid-19 has a large stress on operations,” Ravally wrote. “We are at the point that the only way to cover student in-person classes is to begin combining sections (individual classes) and ask one staff member to
cover multiple sections and even at times multiple sections across different grade levels.”

“This practice is contrary to our efforts to keep pods of students separated and is concerning especially as cases of Covid-19 continue to steadily increase in our Township,” Ravally wrote.

Ravally said the district is also concerned about quarantines that staff, students, and parents will have to observe after planned holiday travel.

“We have had a number of staff inform us of their need to travel during the break and we have heard from a number of building level administrators who have identified families who have informed them of the need to travel to places requiring quarantine upon return over the break,” he wrote. “We anticipate this to further thin out our resources on the heels of winter break thus contributing to the need to pause in-person instruction for at least a short time post winter break.”

“The concerns discussed above, when combined with the growing number of Covid-19 positive cases in our local community, is the reason we plan to pause in-person instruction and pivot to our Fully Remote Model of Instruction which is the very same model we utilized when initially opening schools in September,” Ravally wrote. “During the pause we will continue to monitor the conditions and we will communicate any change in our plans as soon as possible.”

Ravally also wrote that all instruction will be cancelled on December 17 because of the expected snow storm.

The number of coronavirus cases in teh school district was 41 as of December 15, up from 41 on December 11, according to information supplied by the district.

Hillcrest and Pine Grove Manor schools each reported a student testing positive withe the virus, and teh two Franklin Middle School campuses each reported an additional staff member testing positive, according to the district information.

The virus also cost the life of a long-time lunch aide earlier this month.

Township-wide, as of December 15, 2,650 Franklin residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 389 of those testing positive in the first 15 days of December.

The deaths of 158 township residents have been attributed to the virus.

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