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A sign at Great Oaks Legacy Charter School in Newark. Schools throughout the city will temporarily close beginning Monday.

A sign at Great Oaks Legacy Charter School in Newark. Schools throughout the city will temporarily close beginning Monday.

Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat

Coronavirus and Newark schools: Here’s what families need to know

The fast-spreading new coronavirus is disrupting daily life across the country, including in Newark.

Beginning Monday, Newark’s traditional schools and most charter schools will temporarily shut their doors as part of a statewide effort to slow the spread of the virus, which causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19.

Mayor Ras Baraka urged the more than 36,000 Newark Public Schools students and roughly 19,000 charter school students to stay indoors and focus on their take-home assignments while the schools are shut down.

“We want you to stay in the house, we want you to do the work that you’re supposed to do, and prayerfully we’ll all get through this,” he said at a press conference Sunday.

As of Sunday, at least 98 people in New Jersey have tested positive for the virus, and two have died. Newark has at least one confirmed case and a second is under investigation, officials said. The hope is that shuttering schools will reduce the risk that students, school workers, and families could be exposed to the virus.

As Newark schools adapt to the pandemic, Chalkbeat is here to answer your questions and bring you the latest news. If you have questions or thoughts you want to share, email us at newark.tips@chalkbeat.org or fill out the form below. 

🔗What schools are closed and for how long?

All of Newark’s traditional schools and most charter schools have said they will shut their doors for two or more weeks beginning Monday.

While the schools have given tentative dates when they plan to reopen, which are listed below, dates could change as the crisis evolves. Keep checking Chalkbeat and the schools’ websites for updates.

Schools not listed did not provide updates on their websites.

🔗Can students still get school meals?

Yes. Districts are required to continue providing meals while schools are closed. Many students rely on the food that schools provide, with more than 80% of Newark district students qualifying for subsidized meals.

Newark Public Schools has designated several schools in each ward where students will be able to receive food during the closure. The sites will serve food from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Individual charter schools are developing plans to distribute food. For instance, People’s Prep said it will hand out “grab-and-go” boxed meals two days a week. 

🔗How will students learn from home?

Districts can decide what that home learning will look like, including whether it involves online lessons or pen and paper. But schools must ensure that all students’ needs are met — including those with disabilities. 

Newark Public Schools has created assignment packets for every grade level with three weeks’ worth of learning activities. The packets cover all subjects, including math, reading, science, social studies, art, physical education, and world languages. Some assignments refer to textbooks, which students should be able to take home. They can also access e-textbooks online.

Families should expect calls from their schools letting them know when to pick up the packets, a district spokeswoman said. The meal distribution sites will also have packets available. And families can download electronic versions at any time from the district website.

Some schools began handing out the packets this weekend.

“Let the good Lord shine a brighter light on all the Newark teachers, aides, clerks, principals, et al, and parent volunteers who are in our schools today helping to prepare and distribute lesson packets,” said John Abeigon, the Newark Teachers Union president, in a Facebook message Saturday.

Students at many Newark charter schools will also have to complete assignment packets during the closure, according to notices on the school websites. KIPP New Jersey posted its packets online and said it would distribute paper copies on March 19.

A few schools appear to be offering online lessons during the closure. At Robert Treat Academy, teachers of younger students will record daily video lessons, while teachers of older students will livestream their lessons on Zoom or Google Classroom, according to a letter to families. M.E.T.S. Charter School also said it would offer lessons through Google Classrooms and would provide laptops and internet hotspots to students who need them.

A spokeswoman for Newark Public Schools would not say whether the district will provide laptops to students, only that it is giving out the work packets. Teachers will be available online or by phone to answer student questions during the closure, she added.

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