Many N.J. kids will be getting laptops again this year — just in case schools go remote

A student views the Google Classroom screen on a laptop.

A pupil looks at a Google Classroom screen on their laptop. After just iii months of fully in-person learning, Newark students will return to remote didactics following the winter break every bit positive coronavirus cases continue to rising.

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Updated 12/31/21: Newark schools will switch to fully remote learning after the vacation recess ends Jan. 3 and keep students abode for at least two weeks every bit COVID cases continue to climb in the urban center, officials said Th evening.

Superintendent Roger León said the district made the decision subsequently consulting with the city wellness department about the contempo surge in infections. Students were told to prepare for the possibility of remote learning before leaving for wintertime break and are expected to return to classrooms on Jan. 18.

“This is non the news I want to be sharing with students and their families at this fourth dimension considering we need to keep in-person instruction,” León said in a argument, “but the health and safety of students and staff remains the peak priority.”

In the calendar week before winter break, Newark Public Schools reported that more than 200 students and 230 employees tested positive for COVID, according to the district’s online database.

Newark became the largest school commune in New Jersey to announce the shift to a fully remote program for students, a consequential decision likely to affect attendance, learning loss, and student mental health. It joins several other districts that recently decided to revert to at-domicile learning, including Paterson, E Orange, and Jersey City.

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Districts across the state are considering a return to remote educational activity as the omicron variant of the coronavirus fuels the latest surge in cases, causing more than students and staff to quarantine as schools struggle with instructor shortages.

New Jersey reported nearly 28,000 new COVID cases on Thursday, the highest single-day number of positive tests since the pandemic began nearly two years ago. The mounting case count is partly due to an increase in testing, equally well as the highly contagious omicron variant.

Newark reported i,162 new cases and one death from Monday to Wednesday, co-ordinate to Mayor Ras Baraka, who himself recently tested positive for COVID. The city’due south seven-day rolling average of positive COVID tests has soared above 38%, compared to only two% in mid-October.

“Our test positivity rate is extremely high,” Baraka said Midweek. “This thing is very, very contagious.”

The metropolis recently reinstated an indoor mask mandate, and Baraka signed an executive gild on Monday requiring anyone age v and up to show proof of vaccination before entering businesses or public facilities beginning Jan. x.

While Newark classrooms are airtight, students can pick up a week’s supply of meals at select schools on Mondays from 8 to 11 a.m. District officials said they expect the city will reopen sites where working parents tin driblet off their children, who will do online learning under adult supervision.

“We will do everything to protect our children in this fight against this horrible virus and we volition become back to in-person educational activity as presently as possible,” said Newark school board president Dawn Haynes in a statement.

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Newark’south wintertime recess was originally scheduled to begin Christmas Eve, with early on dismissal the day earlier, merely was moved up to start a day earlier in light of a abrupt uptick of positive cases amongst staff and students districtwide.

But before the suspension started, at least 90 classrooms were following a fully remote schedule due to quarantines and positive cases. Similar trends were also occurring at charter schools throughout the city. At that place were at least ii total schoolhouse closures and increases of positive cases recorded on some school COVID dashboards.

In a letter to the schoolhouse community on Dec. 20, León said families should exist prepared for a “potential pin to remote instruction” later the winter break. He asked staff and teachers to ostend families had cyberspace admission, devices, school materials, and links or codes for virtual classrooms.

During a Facebook live event on Dec. 22, Dr. Marking Wade, Newark’southward health department director, urged metropolis schools to become remote as COVID vaccination rates amongst children remained relatively depression and manual was sharply rising. He noted at the time that 50% of all positive COVID cases in Newark in contempo weeks were coming from school-aged children.

In Newark, virtually 56% of children ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated, according to the country’south dashboard. The dashboard doesn’t provide data for fully vaccinated children between 5 and 11 years old in the city, but it does bear witness that about ii.3% of children in that historic period group statewide take had at least ane dose of the COVID vaccine.

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“I cannot stress it enough — vaccinate, go the booster if it’s your time to exercise then, wear a mask, wash your easily, and practice social distancing,” León said during a school board meeting on Dec. 21.

The Newark public school commune recently launched an online COVID dashboard for community members to keep track of positive cases in the district. From Dec. 20 to 26, 202 students and 233 district employees tested positive, according to the commune data. Though classes were in session only 3 days that week, some schools reported a cluster of cases, including 25 students at Primal Loftier School, 16 students at Malcolm Ten Shabazz High School, and thirteen employees at University High School.

District officials previously said that when staff and students return to in-person education, weekly COVID testing would resume. Withal, only about thirty% of the 37,000-plus students in the district have submitted consent forms to get tested, leaving out the vast majority of students from receiving in-school testing.

León also previously said he was considering a “test-to-stay” program that would go along students in school if they are shut contacts and take a negative examination effect, instead of having them quarantined at home for seven days, as New Jersey’s Section of Health recommends.

This story has been updated to notation that Newark Public Schools launched an online database of COVID cases in the district.

Many N.J. kids will be getting laptops again this year — just in case schools go remote