Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson apologized for a COVID-19 testing debacle in an email to parents, noting that the district was assured by the lab that they would be timely, with a remote learning being offered this week as a result.
“As per my previous email, we will be open for onsite learning tomorrow for all students that tested negative, or were COVID positive over the past 90 days and have completed their quarantine period,” Johnson wrote in an email to parents and guardians early Wednesday evening.
“If your child or children tested with our PCR Testing Program either on Monday or Tuesday, results have already been coming in. I have a spreadsheet with all of the positive cases to date and have shared them with principals and the Early Childhood Learning Supervisor. The lab that works with Medicine Man is on track to spin and obtain results for all of our tests prior to the opening of school in the morning.”
She continued that positive results were being sent out first, and that if results had not been received yet, it is likely that the result was negative – the same procedure the Riverside Medical Group utilized last year.
“If you do not receive notification of a positive result via email from either the lab or your child’s principal/supervisor, your child may come to school tomorrow,” the email continued.
“If your child tested positive with our PCR Testing Program or you tested independently but did not yet receive the results, the principals and teachers will be in touch with you and will deliver the academic plan for the day.”
However, all results did not end up being processed by the start of the school day Thursday, leading to a number of students being sent home and classes being cancelled on Friday after late positive results came back.
Over the weekend, Johnson sent another email expressing regret that the district didn’t stick with their initial plan to use rapid tests, opting to use PCR testing instead as positive cases were on the rise throughout the region.
That led the district to close on Monday through Wednesday last week as they administered tests for students.
“I would like to express my apologies for the manner in which the results were handled and for all those affected … I have worked so hard over the past year and a half to do everything possible to keep education a top priority while keeping children safe. I will not provide excuses. I take full accountability for the situation,” she wrote.
Throughout the district, pre-K through 12, the rate of positivity was 9.3 percent.
Going forward, Johnson reiterated that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and New Jersey Department of Health protocols will be followed.
These protocols include the vaccinated individuals that are deemed close contacts to do not have to quarantine and unvaccinated individuals can now “test to stay,” which means taking a rapid antigen test upon exposure and then again every other day for five to seven days.
This policy was endorsed by the CDC last month and was an approved method by the NJ DOH earlier this year.
Furthermore, if anyone tests positive, vaccinated or not, they must quarantine for 10 days and anyone who has tested positive in the past 90 days does not need to participate in testing or quarantine if deemed a close contact.
While the CDC has recommended just a five-day quarantine for vaccinated individuals, that policy has not yet received authorization from the NJ DOH.
She also put out a caveat when it comes to COVID-19 precautions at the pre-school level.
“Another important note is that PK guidelines regarding COVID are sometimes not in alignment with the K-12 guidelines. I include PK families on my emails frequently so that they are aware of what the K-12 level is doing, but I have realized that causes confusion. For example, the Office of Licensure for Preschool does not yet allow for the ‘test to stay in school’ strategy for the PK population,” Johnson explained.
“As a result, I am going to ensure that the Office of Early Childhood and the two providers (HOPES and Mile Square) communicate directly with PK parents. Even if HOPES and Mile Square classrooms are housed in our schools, they are not administered by the principal of that building.”
For those reasons, all questions about pre-K should be directed to the Office of Early Childhood and the HOPES and Mile Square staff members.
Finally, Johnson concluded that parents who opted for remote learning this week won’t have the same experience as they did last year.
“This remote learning option for this coming week will not be like it was last year. We do not have a separate staff this year to take on fully remote classrooms. Please be aware that this option also does not allow for participation in after school sports or activities. Any and all questions about the remote learning choice or delivery should be sent to the principal or vice principal of your child/children’s school,” she noted.
“Any communications for PK will come from the Office of Early Childhood and the two providers. I hope that this email helps with some lingering questions regarding COVID guidelines and conveys my deepest apologies to all those impacted by the late distribution of test results.”
The next board of education meeting is tomorrow evening at Demarest School, 158 4th St., at 7 p.m.