Chatham Schools Suspend COVID Virtual Option: Superintendent

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CHATHAM, NJ — A one-way livestream option for classes has ended across the board in the School District of the Chathams, something offered temporarily because of the prior uptick in COVID cases.

After Patch received inquiries from parents concerned about the full return to in-person classes, Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa confirmed in an email on Wednesday that the virtual offering still remains for students who test positive for COVID or have quarantined from a school-related exposure.

He told Patch that the livestream for all was discontinued when students returned to class after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with a 97 percent attendance rate throughout the district on Wednesday.

All other absences, LaSusa said, are treated the way they have always been, including non-COVID illnesses, which do not qualify for the one-way livestream.

“The student should rest and get better, and then return to school,” LaSusa wrote. “A student who feels up to it may email their teacher or follow along with materials on Google Classroom or Schoology.”

The school district had experienced a surge in COVID cases in December that pivoted the district to an early dismissal schedule the week before the holiday break. The district put the remote component in place on Dec. 20 for families who felt uncomfortable with sending students to school in-person. After returning following the holiday break, though the district stayed in person for classes, they closed on Jan. 7 for a snow day, because of COVID-related staffing constraints a complication during the weather issues.

In-person attendance rates after the holiday on Jan. 3 were at 76.8 percent, with 125 students and 60 staff members absent because of COVID, which climbed to 82.2 percent in school on Jan. 6. Even this didn't pivot schools to remote learning, LaSusa having stated that the typical return rate to classes after a holiday break is 90 percent.

Between Oct. 23 and Nov. 19, there were 19 COVID cases districtwide. That began to increase after Thanksgiving and jumped between Nov. 20 to Dec. 17 to 180 total cases, 112 of them at the high school. From Dec. 18 to Jan. 14, there were 548 total cases districtwide, 213 at the high school. Since Jan. 15 and as of Jan. 19, there have been 41 cases districtwide, with 18 at the middle school the highest tally so far.

The full count as of Wednesday is in the image below, from the school district’s COVID dashboard.

COVID cases in Chatham as of Wednesday. (Courtesy of The School District of the Chathams)
COVID cases in Chatham as of Wednesday. (Courtesy of The School District of the Chathams)

After students returned to school following the holiday break, staff member absences because of Omicron “kind of exploded the frameworks we’ve been dealing with,” LaSusa explained during the Jan. 10 Board of Education meeting.

Many staff members covered each other’s classes as they were able during the COVID spike, with a districtwide shortage on substitute teachers another pandemic wrinkle.

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This article originally appeared on the Chatham Patch

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