Lawrence Township school district officials are reverting to remote instruction for the week of Jan. 3-7 – the first week of school following the winter recess – because of an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
Due to the number of staff who need to be absent during the week of Jan. 3-7, including bus drivers, “we logistically cannot open our schools for in-person learning,” Superintendent of Schools Ross Kasun wrote in a Jan. 2 letter to parents and guardians.
The school buildings will be closed to students Jan. 3, and remote instruction will begin Jan. 4, Kasun wrote. A decision will be made Jan. 7 on whether students will be able to return for in-person learning the following week.
“It is our hope that the spike in cases, especially those impacting transportation, will be lower and we will be able to open our schools for in-person learning. The number of cases and our ability to safely staff our schools will impact the decision,” he wrote.
Students will have to make up for the lost day of instruction later in the year, and the school calendar will be adjusted accordingly, Kasun wrote.
Meanwhile, athletic practices and games will go on as scheduled – but they may need to be altered if the district cannot cover the practices and games with enough coaches, supervision and transportation, he wrote.
During September, 320 students had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the school district’s COVID-19 dashboard. It lists the number of students who tested positive for COVID-19 and their schools on a weekly basis.
In October, there were 324 students who tested positive for COVID-19, and in November, there were 361 cases. For the three weeks of school in December, 141 students tested positive for the illness.
School district officials had been on the fence about opening the schools for in-person learning on Jan. 3.
Kasun wrote to the school community on Jan. 1 that while the district was planning for students to be in the classroom Jan. 3, the likelihood of being “seriously short-staffed” was already being anticipated and that the closure of some classrooms, schools or even the entire district was a possibility.
Several families had requested a choice to keep their child at home and offer a remote option, but school districts are not permitted to give a choice and offer remote instruction, Kasun wrote in the Jan. 1 letter. The state Department of Education does not allow it.
However, in consultation with the township Health Department and the state Department of Education, a district may close and then, due to an “emergency closure,” it may offer remote instruction as an alternative option, he wrote.