525,600 minutes: How do you measure a year?
On March 10, 2020, Amy Finkelstein, the supervisor of Student Assistance and Wellness for the South Brunswick School District, called Superintendent of Schools Scott Feder to let him know about a potential case of COVID-19 in the district.
That night became an all-nighter, Feder recalled, as he recounted the one-year anniversary of the first case of the novel coronavirus.
During the South Brunswick Board of Education meeting on March 11, Feder said he remembers trying to get information from the state last year, while conversing back-and-forth throughout the night with Deputy Chief Jim Ryan of the South Brunswick Police Department.
The next morning, after speaking with Judith Persichilli, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, the decision was made to close South Brunswick schools.
What everyone thought would be a two-week hiatus is still going on today, Feder said.
He quoted the lyrics from “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway show “Rent” – 525,600 minutes (one year) have gone by since schools closed.
Feder said a survey sent to parents and guardians was closed on March 10. He said the results show about 25% more students plan to come back in person to school.
However, the district will not need to cohort the schools, with no changes to schedules or operations planned, he said in updated information on March 12.
“While we are happy with this outcome, we also have identified some locations where numbers are making it a bit tight. In those locations we will be monitoring, as well as adding, staff to account for the larger numbers of students. If at any point the safety of students or staff are put in jeopardy, we will revisit this and consider if any changes are needed,” Feder said on March 12.
However, during the March 11 meeting, Feder said the travel restrictions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Jersey Department of Health and the governor are contradictory; although travel restrictions per the health department were lifted as of Feb. 23, as of March 8 those exemptions were reversed, and anyone traveling outside of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut or Delaware still needs to quarantine for 10 to 14 days upon return, even if fully vaccinated.
Feder said spring break plans were in place prior to March 8, and he cannot operate in-person classes if 100 staff members are out on the first day due to quarantine.
Therefore, the school district will be closed on Monday, April 5, because of an unused snow day; the rest of the week from April 6-9 will follow with remote learning.
Schools will reopen for in-person instruction on Monday, April 12.
“I’m upset. We are on a good roll right now and I don’t want to close,” Feder said. “I trust you can understand the dilemma as the safety of our students and staff remain my utmost priority.
“While it is true that things can change again with the Department of Health, I cannot wait for that to happen. Staff and families need to be able to plan for this upcoming change and we hope this gives you enough time to make your arrangements for students to all learn remotely on those days,” he said.