Princeton schools slated for early dismissal March 12 and 13 to prepare for COVID-19

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The Princeton Public Schools will have back-to-back early dismissal days on March 12 and March 13 so teachers can prepare for remote instruction, if school district officials decide to close the schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Princeton High School will dismiss students at 12:30 p.m., and the elementary and middle schools will dismiss at 1 p.m., Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane said in a March 11 letter to the Princeton Public Schools community.

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“We will use this time to continue our preparation for remote instruction as well as to organize meals for our nearly 500 students who participate in the federal lunch program,” Cochrane said.

School district officials decided to accelerate preparation for remote learning in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, Cochrane said. The school district had planned for early dismissal on March 16.

“At this time, we are carefully monitoring the situation to determine our plans for school for next week,” Cochrane said.

While there are no known or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the Princeton Public Schools community, school district officials said they are aware that some Princeton residents have been exposed to it and may be experiencing symptoms.

“We are in ongoing communications with municipal health officials, who anticipate they will soon receive results for Princeton residents who have recently been tested for COVID-19,” Cochrane said.

Also, the parent of a Community Park School student was asked to self-quarantine because of possible proximity to a co-worker who may have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, Cochrane said.

The parent is without symptoms and although health officials said it is not necessary, the parent is keeping the child at home until the co-worker’s test results come back, Cochrane said.

“The Community Park School parent is concerned about community transmission and is committed to pursuing the most cautious course of action going forward,” Cochrane said.

Meanwhile, the decision to implement remote learning will be made after consulting with the Princeton Health Department and the Princeton Board of Health, and the New Jersey Department of Health, Cochrane said.

School district officials also have been advised to implement the next level of “social distancing” by temporarily postponing events that would have brought larger numbers of parents, community members or visitors into the schools, he said.

In the meantime, the school district maintenance staff is continuing to focus on stringent and frequent cleaning of the school buildings and buses, Cochrane said.

Additional responses by the school district include respiratory hygiene education and practice; careful monitoring of daily attendance and of any staff or student illnesses; and social distancing in the form of greetings other than a handshake or a hug, he said.

And anticipating families’ travel plans during the spring break, the school district and the Princeton Health Department will ask students or household members to self-quarantine for two weeks if they are returning from any country that is experiencing widespread contagion, such as China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, Cochrane said.

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