By JOHN T. WARD
Ending short-lived holdouts, Red Bank’s district and charter schools will be closed Monday as they join the widespread shift to online instruction prompted by the global COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
In a short announcement Friday, the 1,400-student local district headed by Superintendent Jared Rumage said it would be closed indefinitely starting Monday, with further details “regarding food services, home learning, etc.” to follow.
Separately, charter school Head of School Kristen Martello wrote in an announcement that the decision to close the Oakland Street institution indefinitely was made “after consulting with the Department of Health, the County Superintendent, and hearing the Governor’s address today stating, ‘The closure of all schools is inevitable.'”
The charter school’s virtual learning regime will continue “for a minimum of the next two weeks,” Martello wrote. All students in grades 1 through 8 have or should have “devices and the Internet in their homes,” she said.
In addition, the school’s food service contractor “will ensure that any student who is in need of a ‘grab and go’ lunch will be able to receive one. The details of pick up location & times will be communicated when established.”
While Little Silver and Shrewsbury schools on Thursday abandoned a joint local plan announced a day earlier to remain open in the face of the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Red Bank’s primary and middle school were still in session Friday, on an abbreviated schedule, while administrators awaited “an official directive” on attendance from Trenton, Rumage said Thursday.
The schools remained opened in part because the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission on Thursday classified the district’s risk level as “low-to-extremely low,” Rumage said.
Rumage also cited the district’s obligation to provide non-instructional services to students, such as free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches. Some 80 percent of the district’s students qualify for the benefit.
Red Bank, the charter school, Little Silver’s two schools and Shrewsbury’s sole school are all feeders to Red Bank Regional High, which went into indefinite shutdown Wednesday.
The action followed news of a “presumptive positive” case of COVID-19 in a 17-year-old RBR student from Little Silver whose older brother also contracted the virus.
On Wednesday, the regional health authority said in an announcement that its Communicable Disease Team was investigating the student’s “close contacts” –prolonged exposure within six feet of a presumed virus carrier – “which would have only occurred on March 6, 2020.”
“Based on our investigation we are reviewing approximately 30 students and teachers who the New Jersey Department of Health considers close contacts,” the announcement said.