Two hybrid learning students tested positive for COVID-19 as of November 10. Classes were held virtually on November 11 to allow for contact tracing, and the school announced its decision later that night to conduct remote learning until November 18 in the interest of safety. With the sudden outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases both at NVOT and the state, there is a lot of uncertainty about how school will progress in the coming weeks. The Lance staff reached out to our administration and superintendent to get answers to your most frequently asked questions.
Q: How is administration conducting contact tracing? Is it reliable?
A: According to Principal Bruce Sabatini and Assistant Principals Robert Hyman and Luisella Marolda, the administration is “looking into all information that is being brought forward. [They] also verify the information with specific individuals.”
Superintendent James Santana added that contact tracing is conducted “in conjunction with the health department.”
Q: Will all students and staff who have been in the building recently have to quarantine or be tested for the virus?
A: The entire school population does not need to quarantine. “Only the students and staff members who have been deemed to have been in close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID positive case must quarantine,” stated Sabatini, Hyman, and Marolda.
As for students and faculty being tested, the administrators said, “Testing should be conducted on an as needed basis when symptoms are present or when individuals have been in close contact with a confirmed positive case.”
Q: How does the school reach out to students who have potentially been directly exposed? How do you do this in a manner that does not cause panic?
A: According to Sabatini, Hyman, and Marolda, the school is “reaching out to each individual in which [they] have information that [the student has] been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive.” If you have not been contacted, there is no need to worry that you have come in close contact with a known case.
Q: When the school returns to in-person classes, would the Phase 2 schedule continue or would we return to the Phase 1 schedule?
A: Matthew Spatz, district director of guidance, stated that when students return to in-person school, the Phase 2 schedule of four 56-minute classes per day will continue.
Q: What new safety measures will the school implement following the small outbreak?
A: In an email sent to the district on November 11, Santana said, “Cleaning and disinfecting of all possibly exposed areas has been completed as part of our daily protocol. The school is also taking precautions to prevent the introduction and spread of viruses and other germs and continues to clean frequently touched surfaces daily.”
Santana also stated that, “Our safety measures are effective. None of the cases involve school-based transmission. All of the cases so far are a result of people not following the social distancing and safety guidelines outside of school.”
Sabatini, Hyman, and Marolda added, “Our school will continue to go above and beyond to ensure the safety of the students and staff. With that said, we are constantly discussing ways with which to improve our protocols. Vigilance is as important now as it ever was.”
Q: What will happen if we continue to find positive cases?
A: Santana stated that administration “will work with the health department to manage each positive case. [The] schedule is designed to move to a virtual learning environment at any time.”
With the sudden outbreak, changes are also being made to the athletic programs at NVOT to ensure that all student-athletes are remaining safe as well. Thomas Kaechele, athletic director, has answered questions about the future of both fall and winter sports.
Q: Will sports and other after school programs continue?
A: All sub-varsity sports were cancelled as of Wednesday, November 11. All NVOT varsity sports that are participating in the NJSIAA State Tournament that do not have any confirmed positive COVID cases are allowed to continue their season. The superintendent’s decision was the same for Demarest: if a player is quarantining, then obviously they would not be able to participate until quarantine is over and/or a negative test is submitted.
Q: Will the decision to continue the season vary for each sport?
A: The decision to continue with each sport can vary depending on possible COVID exposure—every team is different at NVOT and NVD.
Q: How will the school closing affect winter sports?
A: As of now, the NJSIAA has approved the following winter sports: girls’ and boys’ basketball and wrestling. As for all of the other sports that depend on outside facilities that are not under the control of the school, a final decision will be made on their season by November 20 after the final NJSIAA, DOH, and Governors Meeting.
These answers are subject to change as the situation progresses. Sabatini, Hyman, and Marolda stated, “An increase in positive cases is likely to result in additional transitions to fully virtual learning. With that said, the district takes all of these decisions very seriously and makes them in consultation with our school nurse and the county health office.”
Santana said, “Keeping our students in school has to be a team effort. Our staff is working tirelessly to maintain a safe learning environment in our buildings. We need our students to do their part while not on campus.”