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Dodger Update, 3/26 - Happy Spring Break; Phase 2 and Phase 3 Update
Mark Schwarz
Friday, March 26, 2021

Madison Community Members,

I hope this message finds all of you refreshed by the change in the weather and looking forward to a pleasant Spring Break. 

I would like to begin by thanking all community members who participated in our ThoughtExchanges regarding Phase 2 and Phase 3 planning. At the March 17 Superintendent Coffee, we reported on the outcomes of these exchanges, which included an analysis of some varying opinions within our community regarding increasing in-person learning this Spring. In response to these outcomes and newly revised guidance from the CDC and NJDOH, our administration, faculty and District Restart Committee have been reevaluating our plans to ensure that we are maximizing in-person learning for everyone, while prioritizing support for students with the greatest needs. Please read the information below carefully to understand the current state of our planning efforts. 

Recent CALI reports have indicated “High Risk” for our region with rates trending upward

These rate increases are also reflected in Morris County data and our school data. While this is concerning news, we are basing our planning in anticipation of an eventual decline in rates. In the meantime, all parents and students must prioritize the following critical measures: 

  1. DO NOT attend indoor gatherings where mask wearing, ventilation, and distancing are not in place. 

  2. DO NOT send your child to school if someone in your household is sick or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 - If this occurs, call your school nurse for guidance

The majority of cases that we experience among our students are the result of transmission within the home or at unsafe indoor gatherings. These are simple measures to follow and will result in much greater continuity for our school operations. 

New NJDOH guidance allows 3ft of distance when risk levels are “Moderate” or “Low”, but does not change the "close contact" definition. 

Revised guidance from the NJDOH has clarified that students in grades 6-12 should be spaced apart 6 feet when the risk level is “High”. When the risk drops, they may be spaced 3 feet if masks are worn and ventilation is adequate.* Elementary students may be spaced 3 feet even when the risk level is “High.” Additionally, the new guidance reduces the duration of quarantine periods when risk levels drop. 

*Note: The CDC and NJDOH have not revised their definition of a close contact. Currently a close contact is defined as exposure to someone that is COVID positive within 6 feet or less of distance for a total of 15 cumulative minutes over 24 hours. While MJS and MHS may reduce distance from 6 feet when rates decline, this practice will increase the number of close contacts in school and will require more students to quarantine. This has concerning implications for students that are already receiving 5 days of in person learning based on need (see below).

TJS, CAS and KRS are revising Phase 3 plans to incorporate stakeholder feedback

All elementary schools are continuing to target April 19 as a date to extend the school day. While we still do not have the ability to guarantee a full lunch and recess period for students, the tentative model will accomplish the following:

  • All science, social studies, and special classes will be conducted in-person

  • Movement, snacks and mask breaks will be increased to support the longer day

  • Pre-recorded lessons will no longer be used for in-person students

Final scheduling details will be provided to elementary families in the week of April 12.

MJS is currently planning for a shift to Phase 2 on April 19, risk levels permitting. 

In accordance with NJDOH and CDC guidance, it is considered appropriate for middle school students to be seated 3 feet apart when mask wearing and adequate ventilation is provided. Further, the CDC’s interpretation of research pertaining to COVID-19 transmission indicates that middle school students may transmit and contract COVID-19 at rates greater than elementary students, but not as frequently as high school students. Accordingly, MJS students will transition to Phase 2 on April 19, or when the CALI report drops below “High Risk.”

MHS will begin introducing Phase 2 days on an intermittent basis on or after the week of April 19, rates permitting. 

MHS and MJS are already providing 5 days of in-person learning for many students that have not thrived in the hybrid environment. Therefore, we are very concerned that under Phase 2, many of these students will be forced to quarantine as six feet of distance will not be maintained. While this is a concern at both schools, the greater susceptibility of high school aged students urges us to be more cautious at MHS. Accordingly, MHS will begin adding Phase 2 days to their schedule when risk levels decrease, as quarantine periods will be shorter and less frequent. Hopefully, local rates will decline to such an extent that we can eventually hold Phase 2 days on a regular basis without subjecting our most vulnerable students to quarantine periods. In the meantime, any parent or student that is concerned that they are not thriving in a hybrid schedule can contact their guidance counselor for consultation to determine if a five day schedule is appropriate for them at this time. 

Thank you for taking time to read all of this information. We look forward to keeping you continually informed as April 19 approaches. In the meantime, enjoy a safe Spring Break so that we can return Madison Strong. 

Upcoming Events:

Tues, Apr 20 - Regular Board Meeting, 7pm

Wed, Apr 21 - Superintendent Coffee, 7pm

Tues, Apr 27 - Special Board Meeting for Final Budget Hearing, 7pm