A number of North Jersey school districts have announced plans to switch to virtual learning as the state is bracing for a sharp rise in hospitalizations from the COVID-19 virus this winter as vaccine immunity appears to be waning.
One year after the state's first vaccination was administered, New Jersey’s schools are seeing the highest number of COVID cases since they reopened for in-person instruction in September.
COVID is pounding New Jersey once again. Hospitalizations have quadrupled in a month, going from 1,029 on Dec. 1 to 4,715 on Jan. 2. Intensive care admissions and ventilator use have each tripled in that time to 644 and 284, respectively.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday expanded the Emergency Use Authorization of a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to include youths 12 to 15.
The booster dose is the same strength as the dose approved in the primary series. A booster dose was previously authorized by the FDA for emergency use for those 16 years of age and older.
Some school districts, including Wayne, said the goal is to remain in school even as cases rise. In the last few weeks classrooms or individual schools have moved to remote learning. Last week Lincoln Park schools temporarily switched to remote learning.
As cases continue to rise, these schools have announced changes:
EMERSON — Amid a shortage of faculty, the superintendent has switched all district school days to a partial day in-person schedule through Jan. 18, with further instruction to be announced before then.
As of Jan. 5, there were 20 faculty members unable to report to work, with nearly 15 percent of the student body also staying home to observe COVID-19 protocols.
The move will limit close contact among students and avoid the need to combine classrooms, as well as forego situations in which students would remain unmasked, such as during lunch periods.
ENGLEWOOD — Superintendant Ronald Bolandi said staffing shortages had forced him to switch all district learning to a virtual model until Jan. 24. Before and after care has also been suspended for the same duration.
In a letter to parents, Bolandi said he strongly believes it is in the children's best interest to keep schools open when possible, but that the dearth of staff made it unsafe to continue with in-person instruction.
"One day we are going to have to live with this virus and schools are safer than being home for most students," Bolandi stated, but by Jan. 3, 70 staffers were home quarantining, which was expected to last through Jan. 17.
Breakfast and lunch will be available for pickup at John Grieco Elementary School and Janis Dismus Middle School from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Meanwhile, meals will be delivered to the Forest Gardens, King Gardens, Park View, Sheffield, and Rock Creek complexes.
HACKENSACK — City schools will be fully remote through Friday. In a letter to parents, the district said, "This temporary remote period allows time for local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation impacting our District." Breakfast and lunch will be distributed to schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at all schools this week only.
RIDGEFIELD PARK — After nearly a third of its 1,936 students reported absent with COVID or other causes, the K-12 school district said it is moving to early dismissal times for all grades from Jan. 12 through at least Jan. 20.
Acting School Superintendent Barry Haines said on Jan. 11 that 400 of the 600 student absences were COVID-related. In addition, 27 of its 180 teachers and 13 of 87 non-teaching staff (15%) were also absent.
RIVER DELL REGIONAL DISTRICT — Classes will be held online from Jan. 6-19, due to a staff shortage. As of Jan. 4, there were 19 faculty members unable to attend school in person and five staffers also unable to report to the school buildings. Likewise, 12.2% of middle school and 16.2% of high school students were also unable to attend school.
In a letter to parents, Superintendent Patrick Fletcher did not specifically say the instructors and students were quarantining due to COVID-19 infections, only that they were "observing COVID-19 protocols."
TEANECK — According to the district website, Teaneck High School will be all virtual this week. The school will use a full-day schedule from Jan. 3 to Jan. 6 and a half-day schedule on Jan. 7. The rest of the district will be in person on a half-day schedule.
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BLOOMFIELD — The school district "reclassified" Jan. 3 as an in-service day for staff and students were told to not report to school.
The school website told parents to continue to check for information regarding student options to return to live instruction on Tuesday or virtual instruction through Jan. 14.
FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Public Schools switched to fully remote learning for Jan.3 and it will continue throughout the week. Superintendent Susan Ciccotelli sent a letter out to parents, stating they had planned on reopening normally but increased numbers of staff having to quarantine forced them into remote learning.
There was a two-hour delay for students while staff received grief training.
The district anticipates reopening on Jan. 10 but said it is possible remote learning would need to be extended.
GLEN RIDGE — The district will operate on an early dismissal schedule, breaking at what is normally lunchtime. However, schools will remain open to in-person learning.
IRVINGTON — The public schools switched to remote learning on Monday and will continue through Jan. 10, 2022. "All teachers will teach remotely from their homes and will follow the regular school schedule," according to the district's website.
Any student in need of a Chormebook must report to their school between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
MILLBURN — Large numbers of staff and students testing positive or having a close family test positive led to the decision for Millburn Township Public Schools to move to virtual instruction.
Monday and Tuesday will be half days while Wednesday through Friday will follow their full-day virtual schedule.
MONTCLAIR — The school district will continue with in-person learning when classes resume on Jan. 3, however, it will also offer a virtual option for any student who wishes to remain home amid the COVID spike.
The virtual learning option will begin on Jan. 5 and will last for 10 school days. Students who miss the first two days after the break will not be penalized.
"The district is still opening for full-time, in-person instruction on Jan. 3," Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said in an email to parents. "We are following the guidance of the New Jersey Department of Health and have increased testing as one of the key mitigating strategies."
Montclair has offered free testing opportunities for students during the break and will offer weekly on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for first three weeks in January at the Annex Atrium at 141 Park St.
Montclair High School experienced a spike in cases the week before the break and had to switch to all virtual for the final two days.
SOUTH ORANGE/MAPLEWOOD — Due to a "considerable uptick" in positive COVID-19 cases across all grades at South Orange Middle School and Columbia High School, the district switched to all-virtual learning the week before the break at both schools.
District officials said the cases had not been linked to in-school transmission but that a scarcity of staff and the number of students quarantining had made the switch necessary.
BAYONNE — The district will conduct all classes online from Jan. 3 through Jan. 7 on a half-day schedule. Grab and go lunches will be available for pickup on Monday and Wednesday at all school buildings.
HOBOKEN — Superintendent Christine Johnson emailed parents to advise them the district would conduct virtual classes through Jan. 5 to facilitate testing all students for COVID-19 before a return to in-person instruction.
Each student will receive an appointment to undergo a PCR test on either Jan. 3 or 4. If there is an issue with your scheduled appointment time, parents are asked to contact their child's principal. The appointments must be adhered to and walk-ups will not be accepted.
Students can forego their testing appointment if they tested positive for the virus within the past 90 days, or if they take a PCR test at a medical center or testing site on either Jan. 3 or Jan. 4, and results are sent to the child's principal and school nurse.
CHATHAM — After "communication with the local health department" the district transitioned to an early dismissal schedule for all schools on Dec. 20 through Dec. 25. Chatham high school and middle school will dismiss at noon. Lafayette Avenue School will dismiss at 12:45 p.m., SBS, WAS, and MAS at 12:35 p.m., morning kindergarten at 10:35 a.m., afternoon kindergarten at 12:35 p.m. morning pre-school at 10:30 a.m., afternoon preschool at 12:30 p.m. and full-day pre-school at noon.
DENVILLE — Classes will be conducted online from Jan. 5-7, according to the district website.
DOVER — Beginning Jan. 6 and lasting through January 26th, instruction will be provided remotely. Students should log on to their teacher’s Google site at the regularly scheduled school time. Instruction will be provided until 12:30 p.m. each day. Beginning the following week teachers will also offer office hours for individually arranged student assistance after 1:15 pm.
Student meals will be distributed daily from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at the following schools: North Dover Elementary, Academy Street Elementary, East Dover/Dover Middle School. Student meals will include breakfast and lunch.
At this time extracurricular activities will continue either virtually or in person and will be arranged via advisors and coaches with participating students.
LINCOLN PARK — Due to "staffing and student attendance," grades 2 through 8 will switch to remote learning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 7, said Superintendent Michael Meyer.
Full-day kindergarten and first grade will attend in person with early dismissal. Lunch will not be served, but will be sent home. Lunch is also available for pick up for other grades.
"While I know this situation is not ideal, I believe it will allow us to provide the vest learning opportunities for our students for the remainder of this week," Meyer wrote in a letter to families.
MORRIS CATHOLIC — Morris Catholic will run on a virtual schedule from Monday, Jan. 3 to Friday, Jan. 7 to "protect our community after the holidays," the district announced. Monday will be a "B Day."
NETCONG — A virtual learning model began for all classes on Jan. 3 and will continue until the district deems a return to in-person learning safe under the collaboration with state Department of Health.
Students will attend a virtual half day from 8:18 a.m. until lunch at 12:37 p.m. After lunch, teachers will meet with small groups of students online.
Breakfast and lunch will be available for pick up at the school.
ROCKAWAY SCHOOLS — Due to a shortage of bus drivers, the district closed all schools to students for Jan. 3. Teachers will use the day to prepare for virtual instruction, which will begin Jan. 4 and continue through Jan. 14. Students will return to in-person instruction beginning Jan. 18.
Building Principals will send a communication to families on Tuesday that provides more detail regarding technology distribution, time schedules and other important information, according to the district's website.
"This decision will ensure that we maintain a quality level of learning until we can return to in-person instruction," wrote Superintendent Bruce Watson.
CLIFTON — Superintendent of Schools Danny Robertozzi said parents of the roughly 11,000 students may opt for home instruction until Jan. 14.
"Every child has a Chromebook and we are just making it with bus drivers as long as we don't get any more COVID cases," Robertozzi said.
While many students walk to and from school, buses are used to move kids to afterschool care.
HALEDON — The district, which serves pre-K through eighth grade, is closed for virtual instruction until Jan. 18.
The school had closed for four days of virtual instruction between Dec. 20 and holiday recess, and it operated under a hybrid-learning model between Jan. 3 and Jan. 7.
MANCHESTER REGIONAL — Manchester Regional: The district, which serves high school students from Haledon, North Haledon and Prospect Park, is operating under an early dismissal schedule through Jan. 14.
Classes end at 12:16 p.m., and breakfast and lunch are not being served in the building. Extracurricular activities will take place with enhanced health and safety protocol.
PROSPECT PARK — The district, which serves pre-K through eighth grade, is closed for virtual instruction until Jan. 18.
PATERSON — The city’s public schools will switch to all remote instruction for the first two weeks of classes in January because of the rise in COVID-19 cases, officials said on Wednesday.
That announcement follows Superintendent Eileen Shafer’s previous decision that Eastside and John F. Kennedy high schools would use remote learning for the remainder of this week.
“The rising numbers of COVID-19 cases due to multiple variants are cause for concern for all of us,” Shafer said. “A surge of new cases has occurred in northeastern New Jersey, and it is expected that the trend will continue through the holiday break.”
WAYNE — The K-12 district, comprised of 15 schools, is expanding opportunities for virtual instruction until Jan. 31.
Students qualify if they have tested positive for COVID-19, if they exhibit symptoms of the virus or if they are waiting for test results. They may also qualify if they have to quarantine due to suspected exposure to the virus.
Students cannot participate in extracurricular activities if they receive at-home learning for any of those reasons.
HOPATCONG SCHOOLS — The district will "pivot" to virtual instruction Jan. 6 and Jan. 7. The decision to “go virtual” is a painful one, Superintendent Joseph Piccirillo wrote in a letter to families. On Monday the district had 55 staff members out and on Wednesday the number increased to 60. The district was able to secure substitute teachers, consolidate classes, or make other arrangements, but the majority of the positions vacated have remained unfilled. Piccirillo said he's hopeful the district will return to in-person on Jan. 10.
SPARTA — District schools switched to remote learning on Jan. 5 and will continue through Jan. 14. Shortage of staff due to illness contributed to the decision.
This list will be updated often, please check back. If your school has switched to virtual learning or has plans to do so, please let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with details. Thank you and stay safe.
Writers Phil Devencentis, Scott Fallon, MaryAnn Koruth and Nicholas Katzaban contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: List of NJ schools remote due to COVID concerns