Cresskill Public Schools Attending Remotely after First COVID Case of the School Year

Samantha Distell and Ohr Gutman

Last night on Thursday, Oct. 21, Cresskill superintendent Michael Burke sent a mass email announcing that an individual in the Cresskill school district tested positive for COVID-19. The individual was present in school yesterday before learning these results. Their identity is not being disclosed at this time for privacy purposes.

This is the first case to affect the 2020-21 school year, resulting in a shift to fully remote learning for the duration of this week as contact tracing–the process of identifying people who may have come in contact with the infected person–commences. 

The brief nature of the release is due to the immediacy with which the Cresskill Administration relayed this news as they received it. 

“We will be in contact with you tomorrow with a more detailed update,” the final line of the release read. 

Cresskill students and teachers have been wary of the inevitability of this moment and long ago placed their bets on how long the school year would last before a shutdown due to the coronavirus- none expected it this early. 

Sophomore James Park expressed his surprise at the news because “as a school we were going really strong within the first month and a half of the school year without a single case and then honestly out of nowhere this case was announced. So yes, I was surprised.” Park anticipated that we would last until somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

In an interview with high school history teacher Mrs. Wieme, she remarks feeling impressed because “students have been doing a great job wearing masks in the building and this is partly why we went until now without having to close.” 

However, the announcement rekindled concerns of exposure to the virus for Mrs. Wieme as well as it surely did for others. She “appreciated being alerted right away and it is helpful knowing that the school is doing deep cleansing and contact tracing today,” as these factors help ease her anxiety about the situation.

The unprecedented shutdown comes a week before the Phase Two schedule was to be instituted. Students from Cohorts A and B were still to go to school on alternate days with a few timing adjustments. High school students would have a 5-minute earlier start to the day at 7:40 a.m. and class periods are to gain another 5 minutes to their allotted time to total 35 minutes each. There would only be 3 minutes between class periods. The most significant change surrounded the PM remote sessions– there will now be one per day including Fridays, a day previously free of schooling in the afternoon. 

The Phase Two schedule was understood to be susceptible to change as this is an ever-unfolding situation. Its future is currently unknown, but it can be expected to mold around new intel as it is received. 

Additionally, all fall sports have been suspended in light of the news. The duration of the suspension is to be determined. Games scheduled for later in the week such as the Friday night football game against Pascack Hills, or the boys’ Varsity soccer game against Waldwick, have not received a final verdict, though coaches were informed in unspecific language that all athletic activities are postponed until further notice. As the season experiences a pause, student-athletes will have to train and condition themselves in hopes of a return to finish strong. 

All students and teachers will have to practice flexibility under these circumstances. The safety of everyone in the school district is the top priority.