Students got out of school early on Tuesday so the staff could prepare lessons for home study in case the Coronavirus outbreak worsens, Superintendent Alex Anemone said in a letter to parents Monday.
In the letter, Anemone said students dismissed early on Tuesday to give the staff time to prepare “high-quality lesson plans that meet the diverse needs of our learners.”
West Milford is one of several districts throughout the state taking a pause in the normal schedule on March 10 in order to plan for the event of extended closings ordered by the state Department of Health should the Coronavirus outbreak worsen.
The districts are following the state department’s guidance from March 5 that said schools can operate and get credit for an instructional day by providing home instruction with lesson plans that meet its guide lines and the district’s home instruction policies.
Students need to attend a minimum of 180 instructional days a year by law.
If the state department or local health officer orders the schools to close, the district can still get credit for those days if these plans are in place and agreed to by the executive county superintendent of schools, according to the letter.
Anemone said in the letter that further information would be shared with the school community as it becomes available and referred any questions to the individual school principals.
In a post on the district’s website March 4, Anemone said the district is communicating with the state regarding the virus.
“The best recommendations are to use universal precautions (cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands thoroughly, stay home if you are sick, clean and disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces, etc.),” his post said. “Additional information can be found on the New Jersey Department of Health website.”
Following Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting, Anemone said he is confident the district can function in the event buildings need to close because of the outbreak.
He said plans are in place to use platforms for distance learning should it become needed.
The virus, known as COVID-19, is a respiratory infection caused by a new virus that originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
According to the state, most of the early cases were traced to a large seafood and animal market that closed in January.
The federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, reported 423 cases nationally with 19 deaths in 35 states as of Monday afternoon.
The state Department of Health reported 45 positive cases in New Jersey.
The World Health Organization, as of Monday afternoon, reports more than 100,000 cases in 100 countries worldwide, but 93 percent of those cases are from only four countries.
Of the 80,000 cases in China, that organization said that 70 percent of those infected have recovered and been discharged.
In a conference call with U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5, Monday afternoon, regional health workers and officials said that younger children do not seem to be impacted by the virus, but could still spread it.
Officials said the deaths usually involved older patients with weakened immune systems or other underlying health conditions.
According to those medical professionals, people who are experiencing symptoms should self-quarantine, get plenty of rest and fluids, and use over the counter medicines to deal with the symptoms, which are similar to the flu.
Patients that experience a high-grade fever of 103 degrees or more and/or experience a shortness of breath should seek immediate medical attention, according to the panel.
In any case, people should call ahead to the healthcare provider so that the proper protections can be put in place to lower the risk of spreading the virus.
The township is also preparing for the virus.
Mayor Michele Dale said Monday that officials have held meetings with first responders to make sure the municipality is ready should the situation get worse.