School district poised to stay virtual until the end of February

Superintendent John Niesz said the plan will be updated at the next Board of Education meeting

The hallways at Bayonne High School remain empty during virtual instruction.
×
The hallways at Bayonne High School remain empty during virtual instruction.

The Bayonne School District may remain virtual until the end of next month, according to Superintendent John Niesz.

“I hope 2021 finds you and your families well,” Niesz said in a letter to the community. “As we enter this new year, we are reminded that COVID-19 continues to spread. We also know our community is preparing for the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

According to Niesz, the school district is partnering with the City, County and state Department of Health and the state Department of Education, but it still faces challenges with the spread of COVID-19.

Virtual instruction

The school district continues to evaluate the health and safety of students and faculty, assessing COVID-19 data to determine if it’s safe to transition to a hybrid instruction plan.

The district announced in July that public schools would remain virtual through the first month of the school year. In September, the decision was made to remain virtual until Nov. 2, the end of the first marking period. In October, virtual instruction was extended to Dec. 1. In November, it was extended again until Jan. 29.

Now, virtual instruction may continue until the end of February.

“COVID-19 is a formidable foe, and we are working every day to strategize how we can return to school in a safe environment,” Niesz said.

At the Board of Education meeting on Jan. 26, the district will announce the latest update to its remote learning plan.

Under the virtual instruction 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 school 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.

The rise in COVID-19 cases in conjunction with the continued installation of air mitigation systems contributed to the decision to remain under virtual instruction.

Outbreak among employees

“During the last couple of weeks we have had outbreaks of COVID-19 within our district among our employees,” Niesz said.

In late December, one of the school district’s security and reception aids in the high school tested positive for COVID-19. Any student athlete who was in the building on Dec. 28 or 29 and experienced symptoms was urged to get tested for COIVD-19.

During the winter break there were a few student athletes and coaches in the high school for training. Niesz said the school district conducted contact tracing, and those impacted were contacted.

Niesz said the Chief Medical Examiner, Board of Health, and Administration were made aware of the situation. The building was thoroughly sanitized, and winter sports were suspended. 

“We are attempting to start and continue our winter sports programs at the High School,” Niesz said. “As always we will continue to update our community if we experience any positive cases.”

In early December, three maintenance workers and custodial staff who worked in separate buildings in the district tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are also cognizant of colleagues in other surrounding school districts that have tragically and unfortunately passed away from complications of COVID-19,” Niesz said.

Reflecting on 2020

“Having assumed the Superintendent position last year, I would have never thought of a pandemic striking the world,” Niesz said. “However, I would like to thank all of you for the support, suggestions, comments, concerns and questions that you have brought to my office and all of the administrators during these difficult times.”

He continued: “We are all in this together and as always, the safety and security of all of our students, families, community and our employees remains my number one priority. Thank you for your support.”

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.