COVID Explainer: Will Your Child’s School Have To Close?

An increasingly number of New Jersey school district superintendents are sending out letters to parents warning of school closures as COVID-19 test positivity rates creep up. Currently all six regions of the state — Northwest, Northeast, Central West, Central East, Southwest, Southeast —are rated as “High” risk.

The NJ Department of Health rates every region using a COVID-19 Activity Level Index, or CALI. A CALI score of “1” means that test positivity rates (calculated over a 7-day average) are less than 3% and the risk level is “Low.” A CALI score of “2” means that test positivity rates are between 3%-10% and risk is “Moderate.” A CALI score of “3” means that test positivity rates are 10%-20% and risk is “High.” A CALI score of “4” means the test positivity rates are over 20% and risk is “Very High.”

Sometimes these scores are referenced by color. Low is green, moderate is yellow, high is orange, and very high is red.

Currently all six regions of NJ have a CALI score of 3, or high risk. If a region falls into the red zone — a CALI score of 4 —all schools must move to fully-remote instruction. (We were in the red zone from March 28th-April 25th.)

These current scores only go back to November 21st. Calculations come out on Thursdays and there was no report on Thanksgiving Day.

For a sample of the letters parents are receiving, here is one from Superintendent Michael LaSusa of School District of the Chathams:

November 28, 2020

Dear Parent or Staff Member,

I am writing to update you on the status of schools for next week. After conferring with our local Department of Health officials, we have determined that schools will remain open for in-person instruction. Given the level of COVID risk in New Jersey, we will continue to communicate frequently and monitor the conditions in Chatham and its surrounding area. I would like to also remind you of acouple of important updates as they pertain to attendance at school.

  1. New Jersey has eliminated the travel advisory list. The guidance now is that any person traveling beyond the neighboring states of NY, DE, PA, and CT must quarantine for 14 days. If your family traveled beyond this region over the course of this weekend, your child(ren) must remain on virtual instruction for 14 days. Please contact your child’s school if your children need to attend virtual over the next couple of weeks.
  2. If someone in your immediate household becomes ill with “COVID-compatible” symptoms, then all members of the family should quarantine for 14 days. This means that if one child in your household is ill, all of your children will be excluded from school until the sick child tests negative for COVID.

    Thank you for your ongoing cooperation and I hope you continue to enjoy the holiday weekend.
    Michael LaSusa
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