Elementary school reports fourth COVID case

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Spring Lake Heights Elementary School. FILE PHOTO

SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS — Spring Lake Heights Elementary School has reported that a fourth individual from the school community has tested positive for COVID-19 — a non-teaching staff member who had no close contacts with the school “within the critical time frame,” Superintendent John Spalthoff confirmed to families in a letter Sunday night.

“It is important to note that this positive case is UNRELATED to the previous cases that we have had at SLH,” Mr. Spalthoff wrote in the letter. “The District is coordinating closely with public health officials and following CDC, state, and local health department guidance in order to ensure the health and safety of our community.” 

Mr. Spalthoff confirmed with The Coast Star on Tuesday that there are currently around 35 students in the district’s virtual learning program, which is down from over 80 at the beginning of the school year. There are over 300 students currently attending school in person. 

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There are several students and staff, he said, who are in self-quarantine after possible exposure outside of the school as well.

“We do have some students and staff members currently under quarantine as the result of them being considered close contacts, however, those close contacts have not taken place in school,” he told The Coast Star.

In an earlier letter sent home to families on Friday night, Mr. Spalthoff dismissed rumors about schools possibly being shut down through January, a rumor spread across the community and state last week.

“There have been many rumors floating around regarding potential school closure for prolonged periods of time,” he wrote.  “If we were to close the school it would be based on one of two reasons.  The first would be a recommendation from the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission #1 based on positive cases in the school community.  The second reason would be if Governor Murphy declared a mandatory closing.  

“As of yet, neither of those have happened.  Additionally, we DO NOT have any ‘inside information’ from the Governor’s Office or the NJDOE.  We hear any school based information at the same time as the rest of you.  We wish we had some heads up on information, but that just isn’t the case.”  

Additionally, in the Friday letter Mr. Spalthoff announced big news, especially for those in the virtual learning program. The school will be switching its internet provider from Optimum to Verizon after many complaints from families about issues with internet connection. Mr. Spalthoff said the switch should be completed when students return home from Thanksgiving and is a major improvement in terms of internet speed.

“We are pleased to inform you that just [Friday] morning we have contracted with Verizon Fios to provide us with our Internet Service,” Mr. Spalthoff said.  This change over should take place by the time we return from our Thanksgiving Recess.  We continue to have issues with Optimum and after much communication with Verizon, we have been informed that they will be able to provide us this service.  We will be going from 300Mbps to 1Gigabit internet speed.  We are confident that this will resolve any connectivity issues that we were experiencing.” 

Fifty days into the school year, SLHES continues to operate in its full-day, five days per week reopening model with several new precautions such as wearing a mask, social distancing and keeping groups of students separated in cohorts.  

The school administration and board of education was sad to announce the school will cancel some of its favorite holiday traditions, such as the PTA’s Santa Workshop, where the students can purchase affordable items for their families for the holidays, as well as the annual Breakfast with Santa event. 

Mr. Spalthoff told The Coast Star how proud he was of the school community for persevering through these times.

“We continue to be amazed at the dedication of our SLH staff and community as they work together to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our students.  We continue to monitor the positive cases in the community, consult with the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission #1, and work to keep everyone healthy and safe while providing the high quality of education that Spring Lake Heights is known for.”

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