COVID-19 Cases in West Orange, North Caldwell Schools Prompt Building Closures

Two area districts are closing facilities for mandatory quarantine after learning of cases in the districts.

West Orange Schools announced Thursday that Washington Elementary School would be closed for quarantine for 14 days due to several confirmed cases in that school community.

“This correspondence serves to inform you that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst staff and students who have been present in the building. As these cases have occurred across multiple classrooms and without a clear connection between the cases, effective today, Oct. 8, the Washington School facility will be shut down for 14 days pursuant to guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Health. The building will be sanitized, and we anticipate the functions of the building will resume on Oct. 21.”

On Monday, Superintendent Dr. Scott Cascone followed up on a message Sunday regarding a confirmed case in the district’s Transportation Department.

Cascone writes:

Please be advised that today, I was informed that another member of that department has been confirmed positive with COVID-19. This staff member was in the transportation facility, not driving, on Friday, October 9th prior to learning of the initial confirmed case. Present were 22 drivers and monitors as well as all office staff and the department leadership.

This triggers a separate quarantine timeline for all those staff members which will now extend
through Friday, October 23rd. To be clear, to date, the contact tracing procedures have concluded that no students have been impacted or will need to be contacted and/or quarantined. Classrooms remain safe for the commencement of on-site instruction this week. We have corroborated this approach with the district Physician and the West Orange Department of Health today.

In the absence of a sizable percentage of our driver corps, office staff, and department leadership due to the mandated self-quarantine, the Transportation Department will be shut down and be unable to offer any transportation services through October 23rd.

Separately, today at approximately 3:00pm, a confirmed case on the West Orange High School Boys JV Soccer Team has been brought to our attention. Contact tracing has been conducted and notifications to students and staff have been taking place over the course of the afternoon. Our ability to provide a safe in- person experience depends on the effective implementation of the safety protocols we have established, and thus far our staff and students have done an excellent job adhering to them. As always, we appreciate our community’s support and cooperation in that regard. Please continue to follow social distancing, mask wearing and hygiene protocols both in and outside of the school environment, as this is essential to keeping our programs operating.

West Orange has set a goal for on-site instruction to begin on November 9.

North Caldwell Schools have also had to close Gould and Grandview schools for in-person instruction for the next 14 days. Superintendent Linda Freda wrote to parents Sunday:

The local health officer, Bill Wallace, has asked that we close for in-person instruction based on the number of positive COVID-19 cases present at the West Essex High School. Due to a lack of cooperation with contact tracing, Mr. Wallace has requested that we close as it would appear that the spread of the virus may involve families in North Caldwell. Should the circumstances change and contact tracing indicate that our students and staff are not at-risk we would consider reopening for in-person instruction.”

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