Superintendent's Update 3/11/2020
Dear Lawrence Families:
Over the past few weeks, our team has been tracking information related to the outbreak of the Coronavirus. I imagine you have been doing the same. These are uncharted waters as the concerns with the Coronavirus are unique. Working together, we will do everything possible to promote the safety and well being of our students and staff.
On Thursday, March 5, 2020, we received guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) that outlines the possibility of using virtual instruction in the event the department of health directs our schools to close.
On Friday, March 6, 2020, all Mercer County Superintendents and Mercer County Health Officials gathered to discuss emergency preparedness plans. Additionally, the NJDOE clarified some of the guidance given in their memo from the day before.
We continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) and our local health officials. We have had extensive communications with the NJDOE, including a conference call with Governor Murphy.
As there now are a few confirmed Coronavirus cases in New Jersey, below is general information about our plans for continued delivery of instruction, in the event the NJDOH or our local health department directs us to close.
Understanding Emergency School Closings
As directed by the New Jersey Administrative Code, school districts must be open for 180 school days. In order for a school day to count, schools must be open with students present. According to the code, virtual days are not permitted. Historically, no consideration has been granted to allow the use of online or virtual school days. However, last week the Commissioner of Education, working in conjunction with the Commissioner of Health and the Attorney General, issued guidance in the event the Department of Health determined a health-related closure was necessary. The guidance indicated a school district could use requirements provided under the Home Instruction code to meet the 180- day requirement. Home Instruction code requires that a student in the regular education program who is on home instruction should receive one hour of instruction per school day. A student in the special education program should receive two hours of instruction.
Will virtual learning days count toward the 180-day requirement?
As mentioned earlier, we received a communication on March 5th from the NJDOE giving school districts guidance about the statutory 180-day requirement. Specifically, the Department noted that “online instruction” will be permitted to count towards the 180-day requirement when: (1) it is part of a preparedness plan approved by the Executive County Superintendent; (2) it meets the home instruction requirements of New Jersey Administrative Code [N.J.A.C. 6A:16- 10.1 (6A)]; and (3) closure was initiated by “a written directive from either the NJDOH or health officer of the jurisdiction.”
How will we deliver virtual instruction?
Our virtual learning plan expands upon our existing practices to ensure the continuity of instruction. We are well equipped to deliver instruction remotely as all students in grades 6-12 have Chromebooks issued by the district. Our teachers regularly utilize Google Classroom to deliver class resources/activities and assessments. Teachers and students will continue to use a wide variety of learning platforms. Home instruction resources for each grade level will be posted on our website as outlined below.
We have developed an area of our website that is dedicated to information about the Coronavirus. In addition to home instruction learning resources that will be posted there, the site includes general information about the flu and the coronavirus, FAQs, preventative measures, and our cleaning and disinfecting measures.
How will we know if schools are closed?
We will notify families by the same means we use when announcing school closures for snow days or other reasons:
- Phone calls to parents/guardians using phone numbers in Genesis, our student information system.
- Email to parents/guardians using email addresses in Genesis.
- QuickNews – our district’s free e-newsletter. Subscribe here.
- Facebook – Lawrence Township Public Schools page
What if schools are open but I keep my child home?
At this time, guidance from the NJDOE states the following: If a parent selects to keep child(ren) home, they are subject to school’s attendance policy.
What will happen with athletics and extracurricular activities in the event we close schools?
Unless otherwise directed by the Department of Education/Health and the NJSIAA, all athletic events and extracurricular activities (including field trips) will be canceled. Currently, we are postponing some field trips and some trips remain scheduled.
What should I do if my family is traveling out of the United States?
If you are traveling out of the United States, please contact your school nurse prior to your child’s returning to school to discuss your child’s re-entry into our district.
Questions dealing with persons who have been exposed to someone confirmed as having the coronavirus, those who are quarantined, etc. should be directed to the health department. Lawrence Township Health Department: (609) 844-7094
We thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through this unique situation together. Information and conditions change rapidly. We encourage you to remain calm and to be well informed.
Let me assure you, the health and safety of our students and staff is paramount. We will continue to closely monitor the spread of the coronavirus and to provide updates for you.
Ross Kasun, Ed.D.