Robbinsville, NJ parents hold protest after COVID school closing
About 30 parents carried signs to protest the weeklong closure of Robbinsville High School and a temporary return to remote learning because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The school was closed on Friday afternoon and activities were abruptly canceled after a meeting with state health officials, according to superintendent Brian Betze. The school was expected to reopen after a week.
Betze said Robbinsville has the most number of positive cases in Mercer County, including 22 at the high school. That's a spike from five cases at the school during the first week of classes.
"After reviewing our numbers and the overall situation, they strongly advised us to close our high school for five school days immediately," Betze said in a message to the district. All other schools in the district are still open.
This also led to the cancellation of some athletic contests mid-game, for which Betze apologized.
"While we intended to ensure the safety of everyone involved, we should have been more sensitive to the impact of these actions. The buck stops with me, and you have my word that we can - and will - do better," Betze said. The games that were canceled will be rescheduled, according to the superintendent.
Betze said that the high school will reopen on Monday.
Some parents, however, are upset with the way Betze handled the situation and do not see the need for a closure.
"This is about holding our district accountable to higher standards and better protocol when dealing with COVID and contact tracing, etc," Rich Ferm, one of the organizers of the protest, said in an email. "We are not against vaccination. We are also vaccinated. We are not against quarantining. We want proper protocol and proper leadership and accountability. We want awareness for the mental health of our children. We never want what happened on Friday to happen again to our kids."
Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried in a statement said that he understands that some parents are upset and acknowledges execution and communication failures in the closing of school on Friday.
"None of us are perfect. Owning your mistakes, apologizing, and learning from them so it doesn’t happen again is the professional thing to do," Fried said about the schools chief. "We have made tremendous improvements in our schools and we will continue to work together to make our schools the best they can be, which includes the mental health of all our students. Let’s remember we are all in this together."
At his COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said 22 districts are reporting in-school transmissions with 23 outbreaks and 82 student cases reported.