Eleven new COVID-19 cases reported in Wall School District

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WALL TOWNSHIP – There were 11 new positive cases of COVID-19 reported among students and staff in the Wall Township School District over the past week, coming amid more calls from the employees’ union for the hiring of additional school nurses and custodians to handle the increased workload caused by the pandemic.

Last Tuesday, Superintendent Tracy Handerhan reported the district had 23 cases. At the Tuesday, Nov. 17, board of education meeting, she said the cumulative total rose to 34 confirmed cases and two presumed cases since schools opened in September. The cases include nine staff members and 27 students, including some all-virtual students, she said.

A breakdown shows 10 cases among students and staff at the elementary schools, 10 cases at Wall Intermediate School and 14 cases at Wall High School, she said. The district enrolls more than 3,300 prekindergarten-through-12th-grade students in seven schools. 

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“To my knowledge, absolutely no cases have been connected to in-school transmission,” Ms. Handerhan said. “In the younger grades, most cases have been connected to a COVID-positive parent. In the upper grades, most transmissions have been linked to non-school-related organized activities.”

“I would like to thank district school nurses and administrators for all of their efforts in contact tracing, working with families regarding logistics for quarantining and supporting our staff,” she said.  

COVID-19 cases have been spiking across the nation and New Jersey in recent weeks. Just on Tuesday, the Monmouth County Health Department reported 322 new cases among  county residents, including 11 new cases in Wall.

During the virtual school board meeting on Tuesday, several members of the Wall Township Education Association called in to repeat a plea made three weeks ago for the hiring of more school nurses and custodians throughout the district.

Gail Maher, the WTEA president, said: “I want to give a shout out to all WTEA members for the outstanding job they are doing in these trying times. I especially want to thank the custodians and the nurses that are working extremely short-handed when both of their responsibilities are keeping the doors of the schools open.

“The WTEA has been advised that everyone on the [school board] dais agrees we need more custodians, and we want to emphasize that it’s crucial we hire these people as soon as possible. Regarding the nurses, we are in a critical time,” she said.

Board member Russell Gartz, chairman of the board’s Finance and Facilities Committee, said “I appreciate the WTEA’s bringing up the topic of the nurses and custodians, and I just want to assure you that the board has been talking about it since they brought it to our attention. We went into committee and we brought it back to the board. 

“While we wish we could have hired them yesterday, we want to do it right and we want to do it well and we want to do it within a reasonable budgetary situation. We hear you. It’s being addressed … and you should hear something about both topics very soon,” Mr. Gartz said.

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