Bayonne High School closes due to COVID-19 exposure

Does the incident cast a cloud over the planned return to classrooms on May 3?

Students at BHS are slated to be back in the building starting in May.
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Students at BHS are slated to be back in the building starting in May.

As the Bayonne school district looks to return to classrooms under hybrid instruction on May 3, the pandemic has other plans.

Bayonne High School, the building only, has closed due to COVID-19 exposure, according to a social media post by the Board of Education. While public schools are still operating under virtual instruction, teachers can opt to teach the live video lessons from their classrooms.

“Staff will work remotely and students will continue virtual learning,” the post reads. “No Tech device pick up or service this week. Grab & Go Meals will continue outside of the ice rink.”

The high school, as well as the district’s Central Office in the building, will remain closed until after spring break. This year, that will run from April 2 to 9.

Although BHS is closed, all spring outdoor athletic activities and away contests are permitted. COVID-19 screening protocol will continue outdoors, according to the Board of Education. Residents with questions should contact Dr. Mike Pierson at mpierson@bboed.org.

The closure announcement did not indicate who tested positive, but according to Superintendent of Schools John Niesz, it was not a member of the Central Office. The high school building will be shut down until the end of spring break to mitigate any further COVID-19 exposure and to allow for testing.

Schools back in the classroom

Niesz announced earlier this month that the district will return to classrooms using a hybrid instruction model in May. Under current virtual instruction, teachers have been conducting live sessions from either their classrooms at school or their homes through an online learning system called Schoology.com.

Over the summer, the district decided to remain virtual for the 2020-2021 school year. Each month since school started in September the plan was reevaluated to determine if a return to the classrooms was possible. The main factors holding up the return to in-person learning were the need to vaccinate teachers and renovate schools to make them safe.

Since then, the district has been able to get all school employees vaccinated. May 3 will mark two weeks after all employees received their second doses, Niesz said. This is the approximate amount of time it takes to achieve full immunity after receiving the second dose.

School renovations have been completed with the help of federal funding. Many buildings are more than 87 years old and needed safety upgrades.

Currently, the district is surveying the community to determine how many students will be coming back in May. That information will help the district determine the type of hybrid model it will implement.

What is known so far

All schools will rotate in and out of classrooms on the same days. According to Niesz, this helps with food service, transportation, potential COVID-19 outbreaks, and families with children in different schools. The district will schedule students from the same households to learn from the classrooms on the same days.

Students will be allowed to switch from hybrid to virtual instruction once the school year starts. Students can also switch from virtual instruction to hybrid. However, each request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Niesz strongly recommends that students who choose virtual stay virtual. The reopening plan depends on how many students choose to transition to hybrid instruction.

Niesz expects a return to full in-person instruction in September. While the closure may not be the best sign ahead of the anticipated return to classrooms, the district does not appear to be changing course.

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.