TOMS RIVER (PIX11) — Nearly 900 students and staff in Toms River, New Jersey have been placed under quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure, officials said Wednesday.
It remained unclear if the district’s policy allowing masks as optional at the beginning of the school year due to excessive heat played a role in the current situation. That policy lasted for eight days.
Jackie Devlin was among the many parents still adapting to the new — and shaky — normal. Her 8-year-old son Brayden tested positive for COVID just as the school year got underway.
His case is just one of the 218 reported among students in the school district since the first day of class. Thirty-three cases were also reported among school staff.
“I feel that these kids, they’ve been through so much and giving them a little sense of normalcy to start off, I think that was good for them, but I kind of knew that this was going to be inevitable,” Devlin said. “I wouldn’t say [the policy] was a mistake.”
However, Toms River is not the only school district in New Jersey facing outbreaks of COVID-19.
The state’s Department of Health reported Wednesday that 50 cases among students were reported in a high school in Passaic County.
That’s nearly a quarter of the total number of student cases associated with school outbreaks, DOH Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at a briefing Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Toms River School District pushed back on claims that linked the district’s optional mask policy to its uptick in cases, calling the allegations “misleading and unfounded.”
“Currently, the number of students in quarantine — which again, includes those who recently reported testing positive — represents 6% of our student population. Generally speaking, our numbers are consistent with a community at high risk of transmission, as Ocean County currently is,” the spokesperson said.
For Devlin, whose two sons will soon be returning to class, rolling with the punches appeared to be the first lesson of the school year.
“The outlook for the rest of the year, I feel like we just have to go with the flow. I mean, it’s going to keep happening and it is what it is.”