More Positive Coronavirus Cases In Schools; Nov. 30 Opening Still Planned

Franklin Township Education Association president Dan Mayer addresses the Board of Education at its November 19 meeting. Mayer refused to answer questions about his comments after the meeting.

Plans are being finalized for the November 30 return to hybrid in-person learning in township schools, even as several more cases of coronavirus infection in the district have been confirmed.

Another seven people associated with district schools tested positive for the virus between November 2 and 19, according to district officials.

District spokeswoman Mary Clark said in an email that “Since October 5, there have been 12 staff members who tested positive, 6 at Franklin High School; 2 from the Central Office; 1 from Claremont Elementary School; 2 from Franklin Park School and 1 from MacAfee Road School.”

“There was a positive case involving an outside vendor and 5 positive cases involving students, 2 from MacAfee Road School; 1 from Claremont Elementary School and 2 from Franklin High School” she wrote. “Please note that not every positive case has resulted in exposure to other individuals in our school buildings.”

Most of the district’s students are learning remotely, and have been since school started. Only special needs students and students who receive special therapies – approximately 173 students – were brought in to the schools for in-person sessions.

There are also about 20 students in the Road to Success program at the high school.

Under the hybrid plan, postponed from a planned September start due to staffing concerns, students attending classes in person have been divided into two groups, the blue and the gold. The schools will be running on minimum sessions.

The blue group will attend classes Monday through Thursday of a week while the gold group learns remotely during that time. The following week, the gold group will be in the classrooms, while the blue group learns remotely. Fridays will be used for staff training and student learning on their own.

Schools Superintendent John Ravally said at the November 19 Board of Education meeting that the district has overcome the staffing issues that forced the postponement of the hybrid in-person learning plan.

“We continue to monitor our numbers from a staffing perspective, and so far, we are on target for an opening on November 30, and we should be able to, as of today, adequately staff our buildings, of course we monitor that number every day,” he said.

In response from a question from a resident about what will trigger a school closing, Ravally said that a school closing “will be determined in consultation with the Somerset County Health Department.”

“There is no prescription at this point, but I will tell you there is an open line of communication with the Somerset County Health Department that would likely result in a recommendation on their part for a school closure,” Ravally said.

Dan Mayer, president of the Franklin Township Education Association, told the Board that it should be mindful of the fact that positive COVID-19 test result numbers are increasing in the township and Somerset County.

“The circumstances we’ve been living under have not been easy for anyone, and although there seems to be a potential end in sight, scientists are forecasting a dark winter in the very near future,” he said.

“I’m urging that we factor in these numbers to help guide our decisions in order to assure the best possible outcomes for our students, staff and community,” Mayer said.

Mayer refused to answer questions concerning his statement after the meeting. He requested that questions be emailed to him, which he also refused to answer.

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