COVID Cases across the Tenafly School District

COVID Cases across the Tenafly School District

Jacqueline Kim, Staff Writer

Tenafly Public Schools have gradually eased their students and staff back into school. With newly implemented precautionary measures, Tenafly combats the limitations of the pandemic, striving to return a sense of normalcy to daily life. However, Tenafly was finally met with the inevitable: positive test results for COVID-19. Since the reopening of schools, there have been multiple confirmed cases across the district.

The announcement of the first official case in the district was disclosed to the wider community on Wednesday, September 30th, from Smith Elementary School. The school fell into immediate action, alerting officials as well as the Health Department, which initiated the preventative measures needed to keep the situation under control. “All the contact-tracing had been done, and this particular situation was very much isolated,” Daryl George, the Smith School principal, said. “We were safe all along, but because of the fears that were going on, we felt that we needed to make sure that the community was aware that we were safe in school.”

George expressed concerns and adherence to her duty during this pandemic.“I care deeply for the students and staff in Tenafly,” she said. “I feel a sense of responsibility for every person in my building, whether they work here or attend, and I take that very seriously, to the point where I want to make sure that every person in my building is safe.” Following reports conducted by the Health Department, all cases and suspicions of infection were unrelated to the happenings and procedures within the building but traced to activity outside of school. Despite the initial scare, “the preventative measures that have been put in place in the district have been working beautifully,” and have continued to do so.

However, since the first reported case in Smith School, multiple additional cases have arisen in the other schools. Along with two confirmed cases in Maugham Elementary School, the bulk of the district’s cases have been reported at the Tenafly Middle School. Following only a week and a half from its reopening day, TMS found itself with its first handful of confirmed cases. The middle school took decisive action by temporarily closing the school building’s doors, and proceeding with full virtual learning for the remainder of the week (October 7th-9th). Within the suspended time frame, including the succeeding weekend, the school planned to complete a thorough investigation with the Health Department, to ensure students a safe return for the following Monday. “Their investigation takes time,” TMS principal John Fabbo said. “Since (it) was still ongoing, the decision was made to stay virtual (until) they could be completely finished.” Despite the initial plan, students did not return to their in-person classes next week. After careful consideration, TMS decided to prolong their extension of virtual learning for two weeks in response to the rise in an additional number of cases, amounting to a total of seven, in order to execute a successful reopening. TMS remained virtual, with its closure spanning from October 12th to October 20th, and reinstated in-person learning on the 21st. Moving forward, TMS hopes to keep its case numbers low.

Fabbo believes that precautionary measures are vital to the situation at hand: “I think we’re just going to make sure that we’re extra vigilant in keeping six feet distance and making sure that everyone’s wearing a mask. We’re just going to make sure that we’re extra aware so that we don’t become complacent… I believe that the school is fully prepared to protect everyone. The staff has been working to create lessons that fit both hybrid and virtual learners, (while) the nurses have been working countless hours to make sure that everyone is safe, and that we’re following the right protocol.”

Similarly to the situation in Smith, the emerging cases in the middle school were apparently unconnected to the reopening of in-person learning. “They’re going to be times where we just can’t control what happens outside of school,” Fabbo said. “Students and families, they have lives outside of school, and we’re hoping that they remain cautious when they’re getting together with people, but that’s out of our control. All we can do is make sure that we keep everybody safe while they’re here.”

As for the high school, THS continues to proceed with hybrid learning, enabling students to return to school grounds every other day. THS has yet to call in an official confirmed case, and any further health and personal concerns have been dealt with accordingly. In regards to the cases in the elementary and middle schools, the high school has continued to work towards maintaining a safe environment for both students and faculty members alike. “It was expected that somewhere, someone, in our district, was going to get (COVID),” THS principal Jim Morrison said. “And I think it was handled really well, from what I know of. Right away, the county and the authorities were contacted, and contact-tracing was done. It seems like all the proper procedures were put in place.”

Concerning the progression of in-person schooling in THS, Morrison continues to encourage students to follow the district-wide regulations: “We just need to do a really good job of following what we have in place. And that goes for outside of school. I really do believe that if our kids just followed these guidelines we’ll be okay, but when you hear about parties, get-togethers, where the people aren’t wearing masks or people, are indoors, that’s where we’re going to face some challenges.”

However, the disclosed cases within the district put into perspective for many the realities of schooling amidst a pandemic. “It’s honestly very concerning,” Grace Chung (’24) expressed. “I’m worried about who (the infected individuals) and (their) families came in contact with. My brother and I are considering changing to all-virtual. Going to school is definitely a risk that I thought was worth it, but I don’t think it’s safe anymore.”

Many students across the district have withdrawn from physical learning to assume a full-virtual curriculum. Within the high school alone, there has been an increase of about 300 students from hybrid to virtual learning. Within the span of two weeks, numbers jumped from about 225 home-learners to 370. 

“I knew that there was no chance that school was going to be completely corona-free, yet cases being confirmed led to my realization of the situation that was at hand,” Sean Kim (’23) said. “I went to school in person for one day, and I felt safe as everyone took the necessary precautions. That night, an email was sent out to the parents of Tenafly informing them of a confirmed case in Smith. My parents, at first feeling comfortable to send me to school, were suddenly faced with dread. As such, they wanted me to stay home for all-virtual.”

Nonetheless, the Tenafly schools continue to work towards overcoming the impediments of the virus. Despite the recent drawbacks within the elementary and middle schools, the district has moved forward, with a promising outlook ahead.