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N.J. superintendent scolds parents for keeping quiet about kids with COVID-19, holiday travel

A Morris County schools superintendent says some parents have not been cooperating with coronavirus safety protocols by sending children to school when sick, not reporting positive COVID-19 results and ducking questions about Thanksgiving holiday travel.

Students returned to Chatham High School on Monday, and by Tuesday the district had received reports from parents of seven confirmed coronavirus cases, Superintendent Michael LaSusa said.

LaSusa told parents in a letter that school officials and nurses have “experienced challenges in some cases with obtaining accurate information from some parents about exposure to COVID, symptomatology of students, and travel over the long weekend.”

The high school has suspended in-person instruction until Dec. 16 “due to 7 reported cases in such a short period of time and reports of additional exposures over the holiday weekend,” LaSusa told NJ Advance Media on Thursday.

LaSusa said that most parents have been cooperating with school officials and nurses.

“The overwhelming majority of our parents are working with us and doing everything they can to be proactive and collaborative with the school district to help keep our schools open,” he said in an email.

“However, in a small number of cases, we have had parents send their children to school sick, not inform us of a positive test result for their child — which in turn delays or inhibits our ability to help the local health department with contact tracing, or argue with our nurses about protocols for quarantining or isolating,” LaSusa said.

Additional coronavirus cases have not been reported since Tuesday, but LaSusa noted that there often is a delay in receiving results.

“Our ability to keep our schools open depends upon keeping our staff healthy and out of quarantine, so I appreciate all of the sacrifices and efforts the overwhelming majority of parents have made to help make that happen,” he added.

In-person instruction is continuing at the other five schools in the School District of the Chathams, a regional K-12 district for more than 4,000 students in Chatham Township and Chatham Borough.

New Jersey’s 21 counties all are reporting “high” coronavirus levels — a designation that, according to state health guidelines, means they should should “consider implementing fully remote learning” in their schools.

If coronavirus levels reach the “very high” benchmark, all-remote learning would be required, but at least for now, local districts retain discretion.

The Chathams school district’s website on Saturday posted a reminder from LaSusa that anyone traveling to states other than New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania must quarantine for 14 days upon returning to New Jersey, and that the same standard applies if anyone in the household begins experiencing “COVID-compatible” symptoms.

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Rob Jennings may be reached at [email protected]

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