'This is no longer sustainable': COVID quarantines close Monroe schools

Town of Monroe sign on the green in front of the Municipal Offices at Town Hall Monroe, Conn. on Monday May 13, 2013.

Town of Monroe sign on the green in front of the Municipal Offices at Town Hall Monroe, Conn. on Monday May 13, 2013.

Cathy Zuraw / Cathy Zuraw

MONROE — Faced with increased numbers of staffers quarantined, the school district is switching to full remote learning on Monday until at least Dec. 11.

Superintendent Joseph Kobza informed parents and staff Friday. A decision for the remainder of December will be made on Dec. 10, Kobza said, following the state update of local health metrics.

“Our aspiration since the beginning of the school year has been to offer as much in-person learning as possible,” Kobza said. “We know that our students perform better in all areas when they are provided with live instruction.

“Our hope is that this temporary transition will be accompanied by decreasing community spread so we can return to in-person learning as soon as safely possible,” Kobza added. “Moving to remote instruction until Dec. 11 affords us the opportunity to monitor any changes that may result from the Thanksgiving break.”

Kobza said the decision was prompted by the increasing number of staffers who have been quarantined. In addition to the more than 50 staff members who were out this week, Kobza said the district had to dismiss the high school early on Friday due to a new case that impacted 11 more staff members.

“We have tried to reallocate staff around the district to deal with these shortages, but it has come to a point where this is no longer sustainable,” Kobza said. “As a result of the rising health metrics and our inability to provide adequate staffing in our buildings, the Monroe Public Schools will transition to full remote learning.”

Kobza said the staffing shortages are impacting all schools in the district. And the shortages appear to be worsening, Kobza said, as the town remains in the “red alert” zone with a rate of 38.9 daily COVID cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day rolling average.

“Collaborative guidance from the Connecticut State Department of Education and the Department of Public Health indicates that we should move to remote learning,” Kobza said.

Kobza said staffers are out for a variety of reasons, including those who have tested positive and others quarantining as the result of close contact with someone who has COVID. Others have been forced to stay home to provide child care because their own school system has moved to remote instruction, Kobza added.

All Monroe buildings will remain open for staff.

“Thanksgiving will mark yet another holiday that we are forced to balance our strong desire to keep our family traditions, while protecting the health of those we love,” First Selectman Ken Kellogg said. “The CDC has clearly stated that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at home with the people you love.

“If you are considering travel or hosting guests, please remember the state rules limiting private gatherings to 10 people and take the precautions that we're all very familiar with by now,” Kellogg added.