Moorestown superintendent discusses possible school closures

For now, the district maintains its hybrid learning model.

Moorestown Township Public Schools are seeing positive cases of COVID-19. So the question becomes: Will schools shut down again?

Superintendent Scott McCartney said the entire district would not, but he’s not ruling out the potential for closures on a school-by-school basis.

McCartney discussed the potential for closures at the Nov. 17 virtual meeting of the board of education. He said based on current data, an excess of two to three positive cases at one school could potentially trigger a school-wide, two-week quarantine. But he stressed that each of those instances could vary on a case-by-case basis. 

As it stands, the state has left determinations about school closures up to the local department of health and individual districts.The Moorestown district is in regular contact with the Burlington County Department of Health, and as cases pop up, each one is discussed to determine who needs to quarantine. 

McCartney explained that the district currently takes a “more conservative approach” as soon as it is informed of a positive case, and administrators are asking entire classes, as well as any student or staff member who had more than 15 minutes of exposure to a positive person, to quarantine. The county department of health then looks at the data and may narrow down the number of people who need to quarantine based on contact tracing. From there, the district will reach out to students or staff members to let them know they can return to school. 

The superintendent stressed the process is without a definitive formula. The number of people who need to quarantine could vary based on grade level and programming. An entire class may need to quarantine at the elementary level,  where students interact during recess or a snack period, At the secondary level,   only a portion of students or staff may need to quarantine because of less contact among students, according to McCartney.

“It’s complicated, as is everything with this process,” he added.

For confidentiality reasons, the district cannot release specific details on who has tested positive. McCartney said he understands that not having that information  can create anxiety for some families, but the district is required to maintain any positive person’s privacy. 

Board member Dria Law said as a parent, her concern is that families will not have sufficient notice in the event of a school-wide closure. 

“Do we have any way to potentially be able to predict or in some way help families gauge whether to anticipate a full closing?” she asked. 

McCartney responded that the district cannot definitively predict a closure, but if it  received word of enough cases to trigger a shutdown, schools would have to act quickly. If notification comes after hours, schools would be shut down the next day; if notified during the school day, the district would ask parents to start picking up students before the end of the day.