As the Omicron variant causes Covid-19 cases to rise, the Vernon teachers’ union expressed concern over whether the district had a plan if the number of absentee teachers rose so high that school had to close.
Vernon Township Education Association President Vicky Smith, an English teacher at the high school, said there were 30 faculty and staff absences on Jan. 6 at Glen Meadow Middle School alone.
“I think it’s only going to get worse,” she said. “I don’t wish it to get worse, but we know from experience during the Thanksgiving break that there’s going to be a surge.”
Superintendent Karen D’Avino said two factors would force a school closure: total attendance, in which the district has been holding firm, or a recommendation from Sussex County Division of Health. Throughout the week, absences in the district fluctuated by only one person.
“We’re doing much better than some of our other area schools, but one thing I want to stress is that we do have a plan in place,” D’Avino said.
D’Avino also cleared up speculation over who authorizes school closings. The state has kicked the ultimate decision back to the school superintendents, she said, but if the county health department recommended that a specific school or the entire district close, the district would follow that recommendation.
Current guidance calls for unvaccinated students to quarantine for 10 days, which was more consistent when the Coronavirus Activity Level Report had the area in the yellow level, indicating “moderate” Covid-19 spread.
While the state has since upgraded to red, indicating a “very high” spread, guidance has not changed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently released guidance to shorten quarantine periods to five days.
The New Jersey Department of Health has not yet adopted that guidance.
“The Department of Health hasn’t adopted that guidance, and we believe they’re going to,” D’Avino said. “When they do, things will change again.”
“I think it’s only going to get worse. I don’t wish it to get worse, but we know from experience during the Thanksgiving break that there’s going to be a surge.” Vernon Township Education Association President Vicky Smith