New Jersey School District Suspends Vice Principal After COVID Outbreak at Elementary School

A vice principal at a New Jersey elementary school has been suspended after a COVID-19 outbreak at the school sickened eight staff members and one student.    

The Lakewood Public Schools Board of Education agreed to a resolution to place the vice principal at Ella G. Clarke Elementary School on paid leave last Wednesday, reported, while the district investigates how the virus spread through the school last month.

Eight staff members contracted COVID-19 along with a student during the second week of February. Four of the staff members were teachers who had to be hospitalized with COVID-19 complications, Dawn Hiltner, a spokesperson for the teacher's union, Lakewood Education Association, told They have since recovered and are back to work this week.

Hiltner said that they believe the outbreak began with one staffer who had dinner with another person on staff.

The district's board of education agreed to place the vice president on paid leave until March 31, in part because they claim the vice president has not been willing to share information on whether the school was following the correct safety precautions for instruction during the pandemic, said Michael Inzelbuch, the board's attorney and district spokesman.

The intention of the suspension is to "ascertain information and documentation that the superintendent has reported she has not received despite numerous requests, and that I haven't received when I asked the employee's attorney," Inzelbuch told

"The superintendent and the board want to know what occurred, how it occurred, why it occurred," he added. "This is not about who went to dinner with whom. This is about, were the procedures and policies followed that are required by law and required by board policy?"

PEOPLE has contacted the school district and the board of education for comment.

Lakewood Public Schools is one of the few districts in New Jersey to provide in-person classes for students throughout this school year, a decision the union opposed. Hiltner said that the union wanted Clarke to close following the outbreak, but the school instead had the infected staffers and their close contacts quarantine at home.

Hiltner questioned why the vice principal, who is not represented by the union, is being suspended now, more than a month later. Inzelbuch said that the school board made this decision to try to better understand how the outbreak happened.

More schools around the U.S. are moving to in-person learning as teachers get vaccinated and new research indicates that classrooms where students and staff are masked and socially distanced are at a low risk for COVID-19 spread. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control said that schools can safely space children just 3 feet apart rather than 6, allowing for more students in the classroom.

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