CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa is "confident" that there will be enough teachers to reopen the school district as planned on Aug. 31.

LaSusa reported at Monday night's Chatham Board of Education meeting held at the high school that there are 50 teachers who have inquired about their options, such as a possible leave of absence because of the Coronavirus pandemic. He added that most teachers want to return if issues such as childcare and health concerns can be worked out.

"I do think most teachers will return and most want to," LaSusa said. "Childcare is one issue. Also, if you have a teacher who is 62 years old and has an underlying condition like diabetes or cancer, they have to talk to their physician.

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"We're working through each individual case. There is no magic number. If a teacher tells us that they're taking a leave and we can't replace them, then we run into problems. I'd say that only a fraction of the 50 will take a leave of absence."

The district has 67 teachers who are age 60 or older (11% of the staff) and 165 staff members between the ages of 50 and 59 (27 percent).

LaSusa also reported that parents have notified the district that 285 students will start the school year with virtual learning only and will not attend school physically. The district asks for a 30-day commitment to such a schedule before opting out. The virtual learning will be held through Google Meet.

LaSusa also said that the district has spent "in excess of $150,000" on PPE for staff and students. Among the purchases are 4,600 plastic face shields (one of each student and staff member) and plastic desk dividers. All students are required to wear a face mask, regardless, but can also request a plastic face shield.

Superintendent Michael LaSusa talks about preparations for the return to school

On the subject of temperature checks, LaSusa said that parents will be responsible for checking temperatures at home and filling out a form each morning that says their child is symptom-free. 

"If a student does not have that form completed, they will be removed from class and isolated, until we have confirmation that the student is symptom-free from the parent," LaSusa said. (see video below).

If a student or teacher contracts the virus, LaSusa said there is no set plan on who to notify. In such cases, he will go on the recommendation of the local health department.

In other board news, board finance chairman Matthew Gilfillan announced that full-day kindergarten has been canceled and that refunds will be given ... No class photos will be taken this year, but individual photos will still be taken ... the parent portal with class schedules and bus routes will be available on Aug 17 ... the district is expected to hear what it's revised state aid figure will be on Aug. 25 ... the next BOE meeting is set for Aug. 24.