Bayonne teacher concerned over lack of shelter-in-place notification

Officials acknowledged there was an intercom issue but that a fix was in the works

Following a recent fire on the roof of the Korpi Ice Rink at Bayonne High School at 669 Avenue A, there was a shelter-in-place order. However, some staff and students in one part of the high school did not get the memo about the shelter-in-place, according to one teacher.

Andrea Resetar addressed the Bayonne Board of Education at its June 13 meeting. She is a teacher in the House 3 portion of the high school, and is also an union representative for the staff in that part of the building.

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“I am speaking tonight to express my concern as to how a recent fire on the roof of the ice rink was handled on May 26,” Resetar said. “The intercom system in House 3 of the high school had been out of commission for approximately one month at the time of the first solar panel fire. After three weeks of asking my vice principal about the status of the intercom system, and them not knowing, I emailed Mr. [Richard] Baccarella about the frustrations staff in House 3 were experiencing. As a union rep for House 3, I was fielding complaints daily. Staff were concerned about the safety, especially in the event of an emergency.”

Resetar said she was assured that there were contingency plans in place should there be an emergency and there was nothing to worry about.

Then came the response to the fire.

“A teacher noted smoke on the roof of the ice rink at approximately 11:30 a.m., I learned on the morning of the 26th,” she said. “House 3 office was notified, but no fire truck arrived on the scene to the best of my knowledge until approximately 12:30 p.m. I was made aware of the issue only when my Period 6 students who had been released from my room at 1:12 p.m. returned to my room during Period 7 saying they had nowhere to go. They were supposed to have P.E. in the ice rink and they weren’t being released from the building.”

No notification to House 3

According to Resetar, no staff was ever notified by the administration that there was a shelter-in-place.

“Apparently, House 3 was never notified in any way, shape, or form that a shelter-in-place was indeed in place,” she said. “Approximately five minutes later after the students arrive, the House Secretary came in to say we had a shelter in place. We were left in limbo after that.”

While the House Secretary eventually personally notified teachers and staff of a shelter-in-place, there was no further communication from the administration.

“Students received texts from parents saying there were fire trucks at the ice rink,” she said. “I received an alert as a parent that students were going to be released at 1:40 p.m. Yet when I looked at my school email, there were no listings whatsoever as to what I was supposed to do as a teacher. If I hadn’t been a parent of a student at Bayonne High School, I wouldn’t have known what to do.”

According to Resetar, once the students were released, teachers were in the hallway left wondering if they were able to go home or if they had to stay in the building. She said no one was around to answer her questions.

“So I ask, if this was a relatively minor emergency in the scheme of things, and this is how things were handled, how do you expect to instill confidence in your staff that their well-being and the well-being of the students is really being addressed?” she asked.

Resetar’s point was even more poignant in the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Resetar questioned if Principal Richard Baccarella was really on a Zoom call and unaware of what was going on, and if so, who was supposed to be the second in command. She also questioned if there were too many security and administrators not at the school when this occurred. Resetar also suggested more drills without an intercom and also pointed to the solar panels as being a recurring problem with fires.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” she said. “I was assured there was a solution. Apparently there was not. If this was a minor emergency and this is how things were handled, how am I supposed to have confidence and tell my people that I represent that they should have confidence in the system that is in place. I recognize we have an old building and an antiquated system, but I was assured that something was in place.”

School Business Administrator Daniel Castles said the administration was addressing the issues at hand.

Officials acknowledge intercom system broken

In response to Resetar’s questions, School Business Administrator Daniel Castles acknowledged the intercom system in House 3 was broken but being repaired.

“The things that you addressed are correct,” Castles said. “The intercom system is out. We are in the process of fixing it because, while we do need contingency plans, we need to get that back up and running.”

Castles said that, in addition to the intercom repairs, the solar panels are being removed.

“They’re antiquated,” he said. “We’re no longer getting any credits for them. They have been disconnected and are being removed as we speak to try to avoid that ongoing issue.”

According to Castles, the administration will look into what happened regarding the lack of notification about the shelter-in-place.

“As far as the response on that day, we’ll certainly look into it,” Castles said. “This is the first time we’ve heard of some of these concerns, so we’ll look into them. And then I will personally reach out to you.”

Resetar responded that she was disappointed that they haven’t heard about them because she and others had met with Baccarella to raise concerns of this that were not relayed further.

Board President Maria Valado asked Reseter if no staff received any communication that day, to which she said was not personally given any other information from the administration via email or personally after the House Secretary advised there was a shelter-in-place. Neither did anyone else in House 3 prior to dismissal, Resetar said.

Valado clarified that the House 3 principal would be the second in command in the scenario, in response to a question from Trustee Melissa Godesky-Rodriguez. From the audience, Resetar could be heard stating he was absent that day.

No further discussion on the topic occurred at the brief 18-minute meeting. Although if the issue persists, the board may hear more complaints at its next meeting in July.

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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