NJ schools told to prepare for coronavirus disruptions
EWING – Some schools in Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington have been temporarily closed due to cases of the novel coronavirus, and two in Idaho were closed Monday for precautionary cleaning.
There have been no similar disruptions in New Jersey – at least not yet, as there haven’t been any confirmed cases to date. But just as state officials say they expect to detect cases as testing is stepped up, they’re also encouraging school districts to be prepared for various contingencies.
“Districts should have protocols in place for the provision of home instruction in the home or out-of-school setting either directly through online services or though contract with another district for students with temporary or chronic health conditions,” said Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet.
Repollet, at a news conference on coronavirus preparation on the New Jersey State Police campus, said in response to a reporter’s question that decisions about possible closures would be made after getting “guidance from the commissioner of health, from the Health Department and from CDC in regards to that because it’s schools are being forced to close as a result of a medical condition.”
Repollet said the closure of a school building wouldn’t shutter educational programs.
“Well, they’ll continue education whether it’s through online platforms, whether it’s through – a lot of communications, Google Docs, Google Drive is one of the most popular platforms they have,” he said. “A lot of school districts have various platforms that can deliver information or instruction via the Internet.”
Short of a closure, Gov. Phil Murphy said some schools are already taking preventative measures.
“There are also some sort of baby steps that you can take, that some schools are taking, such as postponing general assemblies would be an example of that,” Murphy said. “To sort of keep kids in the cohort of their classroom.”
Repollet urged teachers and administrators not to allow Asian-American students to be targeted for bullying, given that the virus is associated with Wuhan, China, where it was first detected.
“The CDC also warns us that fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma towards Chinese or Asian-Americans. Let us make sure that we’re better than that,” Repollet said. “Because stigma hurts everyone. Bullying and harassment in our schools hurt everyone.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.