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Bayonne school district remains virtual until December

The hallways will remain empty at Bayonne High School and other public schools during virtual-only instruction.
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The hallways will remain empty at Bayonne High School and other public schools during virtual-only instruction.

Instruction at Bayonne public schools will remain virtual until December, according to Superintendent of Schools John Niesz. He told the community about the school district’s plan at the Oct. 26 Board of Education meeting.

Monthly reevaluations

The school district has been reevaluating its learning plan each month, assessing COVID-19 data to determine if it’s safe to transition to a hybrid, in-person/virtual instruction plan. When the data shows that students can return to classrooms safely, the district will implement the hybrid plan.

The district announced in September that public schools would remain virtual until Nov. 2, the end of the first marking period.

That has been extended to Dec. 1.

According to Niesz, the district will remain virtual due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the city. Niesz said the district is still working on procuring proper heating and ventilation systems necessary to bring students back to the classroom.

In early October, athletics were temporarily shut down after a JV football coach at Bayonne High School tested positive. Student athletes were tested on Oct. 19. Any athlete who did not get tested is not able to participate or attend future athletic events without a negative COVID-19 test.

Virtual instruction continues

The Board of Education approved the virtual-only instruction plan in July, as well as a backup hybrid plan. Under the virtual-only plan, students learn remotely with no in-person instruction.

Instructors have been teaching live sessions from either their classrooms at school or their homes through a virtual learning system called Schoology.com.

The district continues to provide lunch and breakfast via the grab-and-go program. Meals can be picked up at all schools on Mondays and Wednesdays, using the same system as last year.

“We will continue to evaluate the data surrounding COVID-19 and will strive to keep parents, students, and staff up to date as plans evolve,” Niesz said in a letter to the community. “Please remember to check your email and the BBOED website each day for any updates on the situation.”

For more information, go to bboed.org.

Applauding faculty and staff

At the meeting, multiple residents applauded teachers, faculty, and staff for their efforts at virtual instruction.

Bayonne resident Michelle Halsey commended her children’s teachers for going above and beyond.

Halsey’s daughter attends Henry Harris Community School. She said that teacher Tanya Giordano made laminated bookmarks and personalized cards that she sent out to her students.

“She’s happy and loving the situation because of your staff,” Halsey told the board.

Halsey said Giordano has gone well above and beyond her contracted hours, working on assignments and other materials at 11 p.m.

Her other teachers, Gina Gold and Jeff Gotch, “truly have a gift” when it comes to getting children engaged in virtual learning, Halsey said. They offer fun events, from “Silly Hat Friday” to a five-minute dance party. 

According to Halsey, these teachers are keeping students focused, and they’re learning.

“I see it in my daughter every day when she does her homework,” Halsey said.

Melissa Godesky Rodriguez thanked faculty and staff “for their work during the past weeks since school has started.” She said it has not been easy, but is the right thing to do.

The unnamed trustee

During her remarks, Halsey said that “one trustee thinks that [teachers] shouldn’t get full pay unless they’re back in the classroom, despite working longer and harder.”

In June, Bayonne Teacher’s Association President Gene Woods alleged that Trustee Michael Alonso did not want teachers to be paid unless classes resume in person.

Rodriguez said that “one trustee here has failed to see the hard work put in by all.”

“We are trying to do the best with what we were given,” Rodriguez said. “To think this trustee thinks that teachers should not have or be receiving full pay is a disgrace.”

Rodriguez speculated that maybe this is due to the lack of knowledge or understanding the trustee has, not being a teacher, student, or parent.

“Could it be the lack of attendance at committee meetings, public workshops, and community meetings? A lack of community connection and understanding?” Rodriguez asked.

According to Rodriguez, the trustee should “spend some time in the shoes of those you lack respect for, and maybe you will have a change of heart.”

“I have seen the amazing work done, and almost all other trustees have as well,” Rodriguez said.

Alonso did not respond to comments at the June meeting or the Oct. 26 meeting.

Pay teachers more?

Halsey thinks teachers should be paid more considering their efforts during the unprecedented shift to virtual instruction.

Woods thanked educators and staff for their efforts amid virtual instruction.

“Obviously, it’s been stated tonight it’s not very easy,” Woods said. “Some days are quite difficult. It is taxing on everybody. I think all of the educators across the district have been doing a lot moving forward, even with their own families at home as well.”

Further determinations regarding the instruction plan may be made at the next Board of Education meeting on Nov. 23 at 5 p.m.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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