East Rockaway schools switch to remote learning amid Covid-19 outbreak


East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School pivoted to remote learning through the New Year after a “high number of positive Covid-19 cases” were reported at the school, according to a letter from Superintendent Lisa Ruiz. Both elementary schools remained open for in-person classes.

Ruiz wrote last week that over two days, 20 students and three staff members tested positive, resulting in 100 students quarantining, representing 20 percent of the student body. Officials instituted remote learning from Dec. 15 to 22. Winter recess began Dec. 23, after the Herald went to press, and students were expected to return to in-person classes Jan. 3.

“This decision was made as it will be impossible to properly educate all students who are required to quarantine as we simply do not have the staff to accommodate their learning needs,” Ruiz wrote. “With a reduced number of students in attendance at the Junior-Senior High School, it will be difficult for teachers to proceed with typical instruction given the high number of students who will be absent. This action will allow for a continuity of instruction, and teachers will be better able to stay on track with the prescribed curriculum.”

The decision was met with mixed reactions from some residents. Randi Becker-O’Moore, who has a child at the high school, said she believed the district has done “an incredible job” in keeping children safe.

“I’m glad they went virtual during this time of increased Covid cases,” she said. “Our teachers are teaching live lessons, just like as if the children were in the classroom, virtually. This district has been amazing during this extremely difficult Covid era.”

Holly Ann said she was “against remote learning,” and she believed children could stay in class with in-school testing.

Ruiz wrote that students would be required to attend classes virtually and turn on their cameras on to take part in lessons. She urged parents and students to continue to follow all health and safety guidance, especially through the holidays, and noted that many of the cases came from close contact between students at social events outside of school.

Under state Department of Health guidelines, if children are not vaccinated and come in close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19, they must quarantine, while vaccinated individuals need not.