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North Bergen vaccinates teachers ahead of return to classrooms

Superintendent Solter addresses the district's efforts in a COVID-19 video update on April 9.
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Superintendent Solter addresses the district's efforts in a COVID-19 video update on April 9.

North Bergen continues to vaccinate teachers and education staff ahead of the school district’s return to classrooms this month.

“Teachers have been asked to be immunized,” Mayor Nicholas Sacco said in a vaccine video update.

The township began vaccinating eligible residents at the recreation center at 6300 Meadowview Avenue in early February. To register, call 201-392-2084. When an appointment is available, the township will reach out to registered individuals.

“Many of them have taken advantage of it,” Sacco said.

North Bergen public schools began transitioning to learning in the classrooms in March. While the district planned to move to hybrid instruction earlier in the year, the shift was repeatedly pushed back.

Administrators, supervisors, directors, and support staff returned full time on March 1. Teachers and staff returned on March 15.

It’s still not clear what hybrid model the district will shift to. Plans called for students to return on April 19 with details to be determined, but now that date has been pushed back to April 26.

“Our goal is to be back to in-person education,” said Dr. George J. Solter, superintendent of schools. “It’s near the end of the school year, but still we want the children back at least for some time so that teachers and students can have face-to-face time together.”

Ahead of the return, the district has outfitted schools with air purifiers and upgraded temperature screening devices, among other safety protocols.

“We are going to be in small class settings,” Solter said.

Teachers: get inoculated

Margarita Reina, a teacher at Fulton Annex Schools, said it is important for students to return to classrooms for instruction because with virtual instruction, “the interaction with them is different then being in-person.”

Reina said she felt for the students “because they had to navigate day-by-day, just like us.” Returning to some form of in-person instruction in the classrooms will bring back normal interactions between students and teachers.

Reina added it’s important for teachers to get vaccinated because “you affect everyone, and I think it’s our responsibility to help with the distancing to see if we can go back to normal.”

In December, Solter started developing the plan to get all teachers vaccinated regardless of where they lived so the district could return to classrooms in some format.

“Whether they are a resident of North Bergen or not, they are still a teacher and employee, and they serve the North Bergen youth,” Solter said.

North Bergen Health Director Janet Castro underscored the need for students to get back in the classrooms. The township was able to vaccinate teachers through a partnership among the township, the Health Department, and the Board of Education.

“We look forward to having our children resume their education,” Castro said. “Clearly, we have been doing the best with remote, and we have learned valuable lessons, and I think the district has done an amazing job, but we are still missing that social and emotional component for our children. That’s our goal, to do that in a safe and equitable manner.”

How to get vaccinated

Eligible North Bergen residents can now use the township’s new online portal to register for an appointment.

Access the site at northbergenvaccine.org, operating 24 hours. Once residents sign up, they will be added to a waitlist and notified as soon as an appointment is available for North Bergen residents only.

For problems accessing the portal, for language assistance, or to be put on a waiting list, call 201-392-2084.

Those eligible include individuals age 55 and older; individuals age 16 to 54 with certain medical conditions; individuals age 16 to 54 with intellectual and developmental disabilities; childcare workers in licensed and registered settings; clergy; communications, IT, and media workers; educators and staff, including pre-K to 12 and higher education; eldercare and support workers; elections personnel; first responders; healthcare workers; hospitality workers; individuals experiencing homelessness and those living in shelters; judicial system workers; laundry services workers; librarians and library support staff; long-term care and high-risk congregate care facility residents and staff; medical supply chain employees; members of tribal communities; migrant farm workers; postal and shipping service workers; public safety workers; real estate, building, and home services workers; retail financial institution workers; sanitation workers; social service workers and support staff; transportation workers; utilities workers; and warehousing and logistics workers.

On April 19, all individuals aged 16 and older will be eligible.

“The more people immunized the better we are going to be and the more likely we are going to reach herd immunity as soon as possible,” Sacco said. “So let’s keep North Bergen safe: let’s get tested, let’s get vaccinated.”

While the vaccine distribution continues, COVID-19 cases in the township continue to increase. As of April 5, there were 11,672 cases.

The township has advised residents to check northbergen.org and social media regularly for COVID-19 and vaccine updates.

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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