BRICK TOWNSHIP — Twelve classes have been affected by 10 individuals in three schools testing positive for the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, a Brick Township Public Schools administrator told The Ocean Star on Friday.
Susan McNamara, the district’s director of planning, research and evaluation, would not provide the names of the schools or the dates of the respective COVID-19 cases. She also declined to identify the 10 individuals as students or staff, citing district policy.
“We just don’t feel that’s appropriate, given the confidentiality of all that information,” Ms. McNamara said.
The school district’s confirmed positive case protocol, available at www.brickschools.org, states that when “a primary close contact with an individual in our school occurs and is confirmed with the Ocean County Health Department [OCHD], respective parents of impacted students and staff are notified directly.”
The district denied an Open Public Records Act [OPRA] request filed by The Ocean Star on Oct. 20, which requested all emails from the superintendent to any member of the district’s central administration regarding cases of COVID-19 among students or staff, on the basis that “no such records exist.”
The Brick Township School District, unlike counterparts in Ocean and Monmouth counties, has not previously disclosed COVID-19 cased among students or staff. Other districts have sent letters home to parents and posted such developments on their websites, without naming the individuals involved.
Near the end of a school board meeting Thursday night, however, Superintendent Thomas Farrell said that the school district had recorded some cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the academic year. He did not reference the number of cases, the schools involved or the specific time frame.
COVID-19 cases within all of Brick Township, as reported by the Ocean County Health Department, increased from 337 cases on Oct. 11 to 451 cases on Nov. 11 — a trend in line with a significant uptick in numbers for the county as well as the state.
Earlier in Thursday night’s school board meeting, Mr. Farrell said the district has postponed “Phase Two” of its in-school attendance plans from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30. The second phase of the district’s restart and recovery plan would grant students in grades K-5 the opportunity to attend classes in person, four days per week with early dismissal.
Mr. Farrell, who last month said he hoped to provide middle and high school students the same opportunity by the end of November, said Thursday that Phase Two for older students is now not projected to begin until after the winter break.
“As we’ve said over the past few weeks, the district’s goal is to have more students return to in-person instruction, and we will continue on that course,” Mr. Farrell said Thursday night.
“We will get there. We all want to get there,” he said. “We understand the importance of kids being in school, and we want them in school.”
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