Irvington High School building reopens after COVID-19 closure

Irvington High School

IRVINGTON, NJ — Irvington High School reopened its doors after taking a temporary timeout from in-person instruction due to COVID-19. The decision was made by Irvington Superintendent of Schools April Vauss to close the building Sept. 27 and reopen for in-person learning on Oct. 7.

“We always want to be as safe as possible, and, as a precautionary measure, in the overabundance of caution, I decided to have the school quarantined,” Vauss said. “I had meetings with (Irvington) Health Director Sonya White and our health officer for Essex County, Maya Lordo. In consultation with (Lordo) and the rising number of cases, she explained how the delta variant spreads where you go from one case in one day to 48 cases the next, and, because we had seen a couple of cases from the staff and the students, I felt that it was probably best for us to take a moment and clean our buildings thoroughly.

“Not to say that they hadn’t been cleaned, but there are certain ways that we can clean the buildings when the students aren’t around and when the teachers aren’t there, which are the areas that are most frequently used. We just felt that was the best step forward and we decided to take a pause,” Vauss continued. “We had several cases that started to emerge, and we wanted to take a pause and do some deep cleaning to ensure that no other cases would emerge, and so that’s why, under the advisement of our health officer, we deemed it necessary to quarantine the children for a period of time.”

According to Vauss, this incident was not an outbreak, not rising to that classification. The county epidemiologist, in working with the school district, determined that this situation didn’t meet the threshold of what is considered an outbreak. Causing the quarantine were two cases among the teachers and two cases among the students. Vauss personally notified parents, students and staff of the situation.

Now that the school has reopened, Vauss wants parents and students to know the school is safe and thoroughly following all necessary safety measures.

“It is so very important that we understand that you have to socially distance, and we have to wear our masks properly. That is the reason why things didn’t get out of control,” Vauss said. “There is no huge number of cases within our high school and the only way to ensure that that doesn’t happen is that we follow our social-distancing rules, we don’t share food when we’re in school, we wear our mask properly and keep it over our nose and mouth, we use our hand sanitizers, we all contribute to the safety of the building and making sure we don’t come to school when we don’t feel well and avail ourselves of the testing that’s available five days a week at the high school by the Irvington Public School District. It’s open to parents, students and staff. This is something that we offer free of charge.

“The guidelines aren’t as stringent as they were last year,” she continued. “Part of why I decided for us to quarantine, I looked at what we did last year. What’s different is that the guideline for closure is not the same, and, moving forward, regarding any closure, I will not only be in consultation with our health officer, but I’ll also be in consultation with our epidemiologist for our region.”

In the event of another timeout from in-person instruction, Vauss said she will follow the exact same protocol she followed this time.

“If I believe that we need to take a timeout, I will continue in this fashion,” Vauss said. “I will always put the safety of the children and my staff first, because I think that we all understand that you can make mistakes and come back from them, but, if someone falls ill because we didn’t do the things that we felt were necessary, we can’t recover from that. We can’t recover from someone dying. I would not do anything differently moving forward.”

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