Toms River School District returns to all-remote learning, Jackson could be next

TOMS RIVER, NJ – As COVID-19 rates increase across Ocean County and the state, one of the state’s largest school districts, the Toms River Regional School District announced it will be terminating in-class instruction and returning to an all-remote platform effective immediately.

“As you know from my prior communications, it’s been our intention and the goal of our schools to remain open, especially after having successfully completed our #TRSafeReturn. However, we’ve been advised and urged by the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD), in the interest of public health and with consideration for the rising number of COVID-19 cases within Toms River and the surrounding Ocean County community, to temporarily but immediately close our school,” Superintendent David Healy said in a statement. “In response, all district schools will return to an all-virtual format effective tomorrow, Tuesday, November 24, 2020. It is our plan to reopen schools for blended learning on Monday, December 14; however, that is of course dependent on a downward trend in the number of local positive cases and additional guidance and/or directives from OCHD. This transition to fully virtual includes TRRS students enrolled in Ocean County Vocational programs.”

It is anticipated that OCVTS Academy students will return to in-person learning on Dec. 8.

“I want to reiterate that this was not a course of action we wanted to take, and I also want to reassure all of you that this decision is being made despite our relentless, collective efforts to adhere to protocols and thus ensure the safety of our students and staff. This is not an indictment of those efforts; in fact, all reports and data suggest that our schools have done an extraordinary job of preventing outbreaks, a sentiment recently echoed by OCHD,” Healy added. “Unfortunately, this is a necessary response to a much broader problem, as the status of our area has progressed to “high risk.” During this time of fully virtual learning, we urge our parents and families to remain in contact with their schools and to continue to notify building principals of any positive cases. This information is integral to our planning for the immediate future, as well as the continued safety of our students and staff. Though not the desired outcome, we’ve always been prepared for this. Our enhanced virtual learning platform proved to be a remarkable success to begin the year, and it will now continue to meet the academic goals we’ve set for the 2020-2021 school year. As always, I sincerely thank you for your patience, kindness, and fortitude during this challenging time, and I wish that you all remain safe and healthy throughout these upcoming weeks and months.”

On Monday night, the Jackson School District sent out a robocall to all families warning that a possible switch to all-remote learning is imminent if numbers don’t improve.  The district said with the state’s decision to classify Ocean County as a “high” risk region in the COVID-19 regional matrix, it is being encouraged to consider such a move by state and county health officials.

“The Jackson School District is struggling to remain on our current course. Every case, exposure, and quarantine order challenges our ability to staff our buildings, transport our students, and continue in-person instruction,” said communications officer Allison Erwin. “Being conscientious about your own activities, limiting your travel and exposure, and staying home when you are sick all help us maintain in-person instruction.”

Erwin said that the change in designation also changes the way COVID-19 cases were handled by the district.

“Up until now, those who had a positive COVID-19 test result, or who were pending a test result that was presumed positive were quarantined,” Erwin said. “We also worked with health officials to locate close contacts of the positive individual and to quarantine those close contacts as well, in accordance with state guidelines.”