LITTLE FALLS, NJ - Over 135 parents, teachers and community members took part in the live-streamed broadcast of the Passaic Valley High School’s (PVHS) Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
During public discussion, the main topic was the closure of the high school due to three reported cases of COVID-19. On Sept. 21, the school closed after the notification that several students and 28 teachers were on a two week quarantine. School is expected to resume in-person on Oct. 5.
A letter signed by 32 PVHS teachers of the Passaic Valley Education Association (PVEA) outlining concerns about the safety of the school was read, as well as one from the PVEA executive vice president. Correspondence from parents expressing their concerns and desire to see the school remain open was also read.
The PVEA letter expressed that they want nothing more to come back, however it’s “impossible to return safely.” They stated they would not return until the concerns in their letter were met.
Among other things, the PVEA members are asking the BOE to consider allowing teachers who are medically at high risk to work from home, as they were “walking in to school with anxiety and fear” for the last two weeks. They stated that it was not a matter of “if” but “when” there would be more COVID-19 cases.
PVHS teacher Ms. Quail countered with a letter read during public session that the PVEA sentiments read were not representative of all educators. The letter was signed by 32 of the 99 PVEA members. The names of the 32 teachers was read by BOE Business Administrator Colin Monahan.
BOE member Sam Yodice stressed that PVHS had opened up safely. Health department officials from all three towns, as well as the county, conducted building inspections and deemed that the school was safe to reopen.
“Many of us are out there working every day, so we very much understand,” he said regarding the teacher fears, however he added that he had complete confidence in the reopening. BOE member Giovanni D'Ambrosio also expressed his agreement “100 percent.”
Superintendent Dr. JoAnn Cardillo walked through the steps taken when the school received notice of the positive cases. She said under the guidance of health officials, the two school nurses worked quickly to contact families and put together trace data. The school needed to see which cohorts were affected as well as whether it touched on to other programs. The three positive cases were all in the red cohort, however, once officials looked at sports and activities, the list grew.
“Health and safety is always first and foremost,” Cardillo stressed. “We may be hit with more of these situations going forth and we’ll regroup and do what we need to do.”