Verona’s public school students will be back in school buildings on Monday, January 3—but only for a half day. The district sent an email to parents yesterday announcing that all Verona schools will operate on a half-day schedule through Friday, January 7. A half day counts as a full day of instruction in New Jersey.
“This schedule allows our schools to work directly with students but minimizes activities when the proper wearing of a well-fitting face mask is not possible,” the email said. Lunch will not be served during the half-day week, except to students receiving free or reduced-price meals.
The schedule shift comes amidst a surge in virus cases in Verona, Essex County, and northern New Jersey. Verona had 380 new cases of COVID during the holiday break from December 24 to December 31, an increase of 24.4% for the week. The county had an increase of 21,293 positives for the week. The county has always cautioned in its daily data release that the number of infected individuals reflects only those who have been tested and whose results have been reported to the state. Results from most of the at-home rapid tests, which many Verona families have used during the break, are not reported to authorities.
Essex County will re-open its COVID testing sites in Newark, West Orange and Livingston on Monday. In addition, the federal government has opened a free rapid testing site in East Orange. That site is at 90 Halsted Street, in the same building as the city’s Division of Senior Service. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Wednesday, January 12.
The state Health Department’s COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) system now ranks the area of northern New Jersey that includes Verona as being at very high risk for transmission of COVID-19. This is the so-called red level and, last year, a red-level ranking would have compelled schools in that area to switch to remote learning. But because the state has not authorized remote learning for all this school year, only students with a confirmed positive COVID case or a confirmed need to quarantine can learn from home. If a student stays home, it will be counted as an unexcused absence unless the school gets a doctor’s note with a reason.
The district noted in its email that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not yet applied its revised isolation and quarantine guidance to students in K-12 schools. That means that students with positive COVID cases should continue to isolate for 10 days.
As of now, all Verona high school sports teams will be in action when schools re-open. Girls basketball’s games and winter track’s participation in the Essex County Relays were cancelled by COVID during the break.