March 2, 2020
To the Pitman Schools Community:
Over the past few weeks, you have likely heard about the onset of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-2019) in the United States. Many of you may have questions as to the school district’s response to a localized outbreak. As such, I would like to share the current status of Pitman Public Schools, as well as the next steps the district is taking to ensure the health and well-being of our students and staff.
To date, there are approximately 100 known cases of this virus in the United States, with no confirmed cases in New Jersey; directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that the risk of Americans contracting Covid-2019 at this time is low. However, I recognize that Novel Coronavirus may present us with a unique situation that requires greater collaboration with local and state agencies, and that it is important that the district is as prepared as possible in the event that local conditions change. Therefore, we are regularly monitoring and implementing guidance from the CDC, as well as state and local agencies (health departments, NJ Department of Education, etc.).
To assist in our response, the school district has policy language in place to guide district staff in addressing these types of circumstances. District Policy 8451 (Control of Communicable Disease) outlines procedures and steps that we follow in any infectious disease situation, and requires that we comply with all regulations of state and county health departments governing the prevention, control, and reporting of communicable disease. At times in the past, the district has implemented measures of this policy in addressing other infectious disease outbreaks.
In the interim, the district is taking proactive steps to mitigate the chances of infection among students and staff members. Each school monitors student and staff absences daily, and nurses may be directed to report any flu-like symptoms to the health department; students and staff members who exhibit symptoms while at school will be sent home to recover. In addition, our district facilities staff works daily to ensure that our schools are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, using environmentally safe products that kill most viruses and bacteria on surfaces, doorknobs, and the like.
As for what families and staff members can do to help, the CDC recommends simple steps for preventing infection with Covid-2019 or any other communicable disease:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick, and contact your healthcare provider to arrange for treatment (call in advance).
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Around your home, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Some media reports have suggested that in more extreme situations, schools that are greatly impacted by the Coronavirus may be directed to close for an extended number of days. If that is the case, the district is reviewing plans in terms of calendar revision options and potential continuity of instruction through electronic means; we are awaiting further guidance from the NJ Department of Education to determine how to proceed if this is necessary.
As we receive new information to share with you, it will be communicated electronically (email and/or phone) through the Blackboard system, as well as our district website, social media sites, and other platforms.
Please review these resources to learn more about Coronavirus:
Centers for Disease Control -https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf
NJ Department of Health - https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml
Gloucester County Department of Health and Human Services - http://www.gloucestercountynj.gov/depts/h/hedss/pubhhome.asp
24 Hour Public Hotline (Q&A re: coronavirus): 1-800-222-1222 As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.
Dr. Patrick McAleer
Superintendent of Schools