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Surge In Covid-19 Cases Forces District Schools To Go Virtual, Other Schools Change Winter Opening Plans

Franklin High School students will be among those in the district who will switch to remote learning on January 4.

The upsurge in Covid-19 cases in the township during December has led some schools in the Eight Villages to alter their reopening plans for the Spring.

There were more than 500 positive test results for Franklin residents reported during the last week of December, up to December 30, according to the township Office of Emergency Management.

As a result, schools were forced to change how they reopen after the Winter break.

  • The township school district’s roughly 8,000 students are scheduled to start the term off on January 3 with a minimum session, followed by eight days of remote learning.
  • Rutgers Preparatory School is pushing its opening day to January 6, and will require Covid-19 testing at various intervals for different segments of its population.
  • Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School will go virtual from January 3-7.
  • Cedar Hill Prep School will go virtual for the week of January 3 and plans to return to in-person learning on January 10.

The Franklin school district had originally intended to hold minimum sessions for middle and high school students from January 3-17, due to a staffing shortage as a result of the coronavirus.

That plan changed on January 2, as a result of the “high number of positive cases” reported in the preceding 24 hours and a “large increase in staff absentee levels” reported in that same time frame, according to a Q&A document released by District.

“As a result, earlier today, January 2, 2022, the district once again conferred with the local health department who
supported the district plan to pivot to remote instruction after an in person minimum session day on January 3, 2022.”

“The District will work with the Somerset County Department of Health to continue monitoring all relevant
data during the two week remote period and if further action is needed the District will communicate any changes as soon as possible,” according to the document.

Schools are closed on January 14 and 17.

The reason for the in-person day on January 3, according to the document, was to allow students to bring home what they would need for remote learning, such as computers, and for teachers to gather whatever materials they may have left in their classrooms.

Breakfast will be provided at all schools on January 3, and lunch will be provided at the elementary schools, according to the document.

Once remote learning starts, grab-and-go meals will be provided on January 7 and January 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Street Campus of Franklin Middle School, 415 Francis Street, Somerset; Elizabeth Avenue School, 363 Elizabeth Avenue, Somerset; Hillcrest School, 500 Hamilton Street, Somerset and Pine Grove Manor School, 130 Highland Avenue, Somerset, according to the document.

Athletics will “continue to the extent possible, coaches will provide more information to their student athletes,” the document reads. Extracurricular activities will be conducted remotely.

The full Q&A can be read here.

Rutgers Prep will have in-person learning, but is requiring all students, faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status, to provide a negative Covid-19 test before returning to campus on January 6.

The school is providing testing for students, faculty and staff on January 3.

Those who test positive must isolate for five days, and anyone exposed to a person who has tested positive must quarantine for five days from the day of exposure, and must test negative before returning to campus.

The school is also expanding its weekly Covid-19 testing program beyond unvaccinated students, faculty and staff.

“The following community members, who participate in activities that cross Divisions or multiple Grades and therefore increase potential spread on campus will be required to test weekly beginning on Monday, January 10, 2022,” according to the Rutgers Prep web site: 

  • Unvaccinated students, faculty, and staff
  • All Lower School students
  • Individuals vaccinated with a single dose of J&J more than two months ago and have not received a booster
  • Individuals vaccinated with two doses of Moderna or Pfizer more than 6 months ago and have not received a booster
  • Upper School and Middle School Interscholastic Winter Sport Athletes and Coaches
  • Students, Faculty and Staff participating in the Musical

Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School has also opted for remote learning.

Students will log in to their classes by 7:50 a.m. using Zoom links, said Oguz Yildiz, the school’s Lead Person.

School will operate on a full-day schedule from 7:50 a.m. to 2:35 p.m., he said.

“There will not be any after school activities or tutoring,” he said. “Students receiving special services will continue to receive support virtually with their support teachers. A decision regarding school operations for the week of January 10th will be communicated with parents and students by January 6th.”

Nan Mandini, founder of the Cedar Hill Prep School, said that the school did not have any Covid-19 transmissions reported within the school. She said all faculty and staff must be vaccinated, and 80 percent of students who were eligible have been vaccinated.

“Based on the news reports related to the Omicron variant, and contagion, including among the vaccinated population, we have chosen to err on the side of caution – School will be virtual for the first week and resume face to face learning on January 10th,” she said. “All families who have traveled have been asked to submit a negative RT-PCR report in order to come to the school.”

Central Jersey College Prep Charter School officials decided on January 3 to switch to remote learning from January 4-7.

“It is a difficult decision for us as we want to offer the best possible education for our students and families; however, based on the current trends and positive cases, remote learning is the safest option,” Namik Sercan, the school’s Chief Educational Officer, said in a statement. “All CJCP students have the technology available for them to restart remote learning; all live instructional sessions will take place this week.”

CJCP is reporting 22 current positive Covid-19 student cases with 46 quarantines at its Somerset and New Brunswick campuses, and 11 current cases and 10 quarantines among staff at the campuses.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide an update to our community on Friday, January 7th, for the following week,” he said in the statement.

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