(Updated Friday, March 13 at 10:30 a.m.)
The Bayonne School District will be closed beginning March 13 as a result of a State of Emergency declared in the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, in Bayonne, Mayor James Davis declared a State of Emergency as a precaution and to begin preparations for any potential outbreak in the city.
All public schools in Bayonne will be closed from March 13 until March 30, according to Superintendent of Schools John Niesz. Students had off on March 13 as faculty and staff reported for a Professional Development Day to review the rules and regulations pertaining to the Virtual Learning Process.
Virtual Learning is available to all staff, faculty and students through the Bayonne Board of Education website.
Superintendent of Schools John Niesz updated the city on the school district’s plans in a letter addressed to the Bayonne Community.
Parents received information earlier in the week regarding the school health-related closure preparedness plan to provide home instruction in the event of a closure. Instructions were sent home with students and also posted in the digital backpacks.
Virtual Learning through remote education is part of the School District’s plan to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
“In the event a board of education is provided a written directive by either the NJDOH or the health officer of the jurisdiction to institute a public health-related closure, the board of education may utilize home instruction to provide instructional services to enrolled students,” Niesz said.
The Bayonne School District will use an online learning platform of Google Classroom or ClassDojo for home instruction. Access instructions will be sent out if necessary.
According to Niesz, this is a precaution at this time as part of readiness procedures.
“The safety and security of our students, faculty, staff, and community are our number one concern,” Niesz said. “This past weekend and all week, our district has met with all of our district administration and leadership to ensure we will have a seamless response to a possible COVID-19 threat.”
Rumors swirl on social media
So far, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bayonne. However, a West New York man is hospitalized in Bergen County with the virus. But that hasn’t stopped rumors from spreading on social media.
According to Niesz, rumors had been spreading online about a student in the area contracting the virus.
“We were made aware of reports on social media today of a student in a Hudson County town with COVID-19,” Niesz stated.
However, that report was false. According to Niesz, the Hudson County Executive Superintendent told him that the report was false and without merit.
Niesz added that there was also a student who came to school in Bayonne on March 10 with a surgical mask on, claiming that his family member was in a location with a suspected case of COVID-19. Niesz called the location and found that claim was false as well.
“We are taking all reports very seriously and monitoring every situation with our Department of Health,” Niesz said. “If there is any report of COVID-19 in our schools or reported to our Department of Health we will notify our community immediately.”
Niesz informed parents and the community that students who wear masks to school will be sent home under the presumption that the child is ill. Sick students are advised to stay home and seek medical attention.
Sanitary measures stepped up
In addition to preparing to cope with the effects of a COVID-19 outbreak in Bayonne, schools are taking preventative cleaning measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the classroom.
Custodial staff is on extra duty to maximize the district-wide approach to clean the buildings.
The Bayonne School District custodial staff is following cleaning protocols for all buildings on a daily basis to help avoid the spread of germs.
All schools have been provided with an EPA registered disinfectant to effectively treat all touch points in all areas of the building, according to the letter. All schools are provided with a hydrogen peroxide-based all-surface cleaner to effectively clean light to heavily soiled and greasy surfaces.
“We are also using sprayers and pressured cleaning guns to disinfect areas,” Niesz said.
Evening custodial staff clean touch points throughout the building and then apply disinfectant to eliminate cross-contamination from treated surfaces. Niesz stated that restrooms are cleaned and disinfected throughout the school day.
According to Niesz, custodial staff maintains an open line of communication with the principal to identify areas of the building that require enhanced cleaning based on the number of staff and students who have reported illness.
Hand soap is checked and stocked for staff and students each day and readily available at each sink throughout the district, with hand sanitizer where there is not a sink readily available.
School buses in Bayonne are receiving the same cleaning treatment.
Buses, including handrails, seat buckles, and seats, are cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis, using the same effective cleaning chemicals used in schools.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.