After 2 student-athletes contract COVID-19, another N.J. school district goes


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The Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District will start the school year with virtual classes only, after a pair of high school athletes tested positive for the coronavirus, district officials said.

Woodstown-Pilesgrove is the first district in sparsely populated Salem County to announce it will not offer any in-person classes at the start of the school year as a precaution against the virus, according to a 2020-21 school-opening database maintained by NJ Advance Media.

“Despite extensive planning leading up to our school reopening, and extensive precautions taken by our coaches and athletes, we have two student-athletes who are COVID positive with several COVID test results pending,” the district’s superintendent of schools, Virginia Grossman, wrote in a letter Friday to the Woodstown-Pilesgrove school community.

“Reluctantly,” Grossman added, “I must acknowledge that I cannot guarantee the safety our school community with an in-person, hybrid reopening at this time. Health and safety of all members of our school community dramatically improves by pivoting to a temporary, all virtual, remote learning start for the first six weeks of the school year.”

Grossman left open the possibility that the district would begin offering partial in-person instruction starting Oct. 19, depending on a recommendation that will be presented to the Board of Education at its Sept. 24 meeting, based on a review of the circumstances by the School Pandemic Response Committee and the Administrative Team.

Grossman’s letter did not identify the students or their sport, nor did it state whether fall sports will be played this year. Woodstown High School fall sports include football, soccer and field hockey,

The school board president, Eileen Miller, referred questions to Grossman, who did not respond to requests for comment. Woodstown High School’s athletic director, Joseph Ursino, as well as other officials, also did not respond.

The announcement that two the players had tested positive came a day after the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), the state’s high school sports governing body, announced Thursday that fall sports will be played this year. Even so, several school districts, including some in South Jersey, have decided to cancel their fall seasons.

Woodstown-Pilesgrove is not the first district to announce that a student-athlete had tested positive this pre-season. In Atlantic County, Pleasantville school district officials announced Tuesday night that a student athlete tested positive for COVID-19 after participating in two weeks of on-campus practices. Those in contact with the student have been asked to self-quarantine. The district held a special meeting Tuesday night to seek a switch to all-remote learning.

Woodstown-Pilesgrove is pre-K-through-12 regional district of serving a total of about 1,700 students from the Borough of Woodstown and Pilesgrove Township, plus Alloway, Upper Pittsgrove, and Oldmans townships, which send students to the high school.

Officially, Salem County recorded a total of 982 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday, resulting in 82 deaths. That’s out of 189,236 cases and 14,114 deaths for all of New Jersey. The largely rural county has accounted for 0.5% of the state’s confirmed cases, and .06% of deaths.

The county’s coronavirus figures are consistent with its relatively low and low-density population. With an estimated 62,385 residents in 2019, Salem is the least populous of New Jersey’s 21 counties, accounting for just 0.07% of the state’s population of 8.8 million.

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Steve Strunsky may be reached at sstrunsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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