The Mount Olive school district is switching to all-remote learning for seven weeks starting next Monday.
It is among the growing number of school districts in New Jersey opting to keep students out of classrooms as coronavirus cases surge throughout the state.
Mount Olive drew notice in early March, about a week before all schools closed statewide, upon closing for a day in order to prepare for long-term virtual instruction.
The K-12 district has six school buildings and enrolls 4,600 students. Approximately 500 students who receive specialized services, including students with disabilities, will have the option to continue receiving in-person instruction, Schools Superintendent Robert Zywicki said.
Teachers will continue reporting to school buildings while providing virtual instruction from their classrooms. They will be wearing masks and following social-distancing guidelines, Zywicki said.
“We’re trying to keep kids and staff as safe as possible,” Zywicki told NJ Advance Media on Tuesday.
In making the announcement via a video posted Monday to the school district’s website. Zywicki said that, during the past three weeks, the district has endured “a rise in cases necessitating the quarantining of 50 staff members, scores of students and three athletic teams.”
“The quarantining of staff and students, as well as the constant daily contract tracing, are an immense burden on the district’s operations,” Zywicki said on the video.
Mount Olive’s health director, Trevor Weigle, also appeared on the video and said there have been more than 500 confirmed coronavirus cases among the township’s 28,000 residents, including 70 currently isolated at home.
Zywicki said on the video that “three of our six schools have had to switch to all-remote learning because of positive cases.”
Contacted Tuesday, Zywicki said that two schools — the Chester M. Stephens Elementary School and Tinc Road School — reopened on Monday after being closed for two weeks. A third, the Sandshore Elementary School, closed over the weekend.
The switch to all-remote learning will begin Monday, Nov. 23, three days before Thanksgiving, and will continue until Jan. 19.
At least a dozen school districts in New Jersey have announced they are staying with, or switching to, all-remote learning until January — and possibly longer.
The list includes three of the state’s biggest school districts, in Jersey City, Newark and Paterson.
With coronavirus cases are continuing to rise in New Jersey, the list seems likely to grow, though Gov. Phil Murphy has said he is not planning to order a statewide shutdown.
n Mount Olive, Zywicki said “an abundance of caution due to increased travel over the upcoming holidays” factored into the decision.