Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco delivered the following remarks at an evening news conference concerning the status of Bergen County’s 75 school districts:
“As many of you have reported, Broadway has gone dark. Disneyland has closed its doors. And the NHL, MLB and NBA seasons have come to a halt.
As the Bergen County Executive, I feel that closing all of our public schools in Bergen County is just as paramount a decision, and I do not take it, or make it lightly.
I’ve been fielding phone calls this week from mayors, health and school officials and other leaders and parents about the status of our schools.
With the continuing spread of COVID-19 throughout Bergen County, it is imperative that we take action and do everything in our power to protect our 1 million residents.
This includes our 75 school districts which have almost 170,000 children; 16,000 teachers; and hundreds and hundreds of administrative, custodial and support staff.
Earlier this week, I declared a State of Emergency in the County of Bergen. As a result, we closed all 10 county-operated senior activity centers until further notice to protect our seniors who continue to be the most vulnerable population when it comes to the spread of this deadly virus.
We suspended visitation to our Bergen County Health Care Center at Rockleigh, and our partner agency at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center implemented the same policy for their long-term care facility.
We also announced that we were closing the Bergen County Technical Schools and the Bergen County Special Services Schools which affects approximately 3,600 students and 1,600 teachers and administrators.
Today, we are making another announcement concerning our schools.
After consulting with executive leadership of the Bergen County Association of School Administrators and our county health officer, I have decided to have all 75 public school districts in Bergen County transition from on-site learning to off-site internet-based and paper-based distance learning until further notice.
While the CDC states that COVID-19 does not pose as great a risk to our children as it does to our older adult population, it is vital that we protect our children from the dangers of this virus or the community spread of this virus.
We are confident in the ability of Bergen County’s teachers, staff and administrators to successfully educate our children off-site, and are encouraging them to begin preparing lesson-plans as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, this virus is not going anywhere for the time-being. As your County Executive, I will continue to take every step necessary to protect you and your families.
In an ongoing effort to be safe, we must continue to take proactive steps to get ahead of this virus, contain the spread of this virus, and protect ourselves from this virus.
You’ve heard many health officials say this over the past week but it bears repeating: There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
The CDC and the NJ Department of Health recommend that you take the simple steps that they have recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We are also encouraging businesses to let their employees stay at home using tele-communication technology to be with their children to address their childcare needs, and if that is not possible, we hope and expect private businesses would make allowances to their employees to be paid for a reasonable time to take care of their families — similar to the Civil Service guidelines public employees have.
The people of Bergen County are a very strong group of people and we will get through this. We made it through Superstorm Floyd and Superstorm Sandy when schools were closed for days and we will make it through COVID-19.
We are Bergen County Strong, but we must take steps to protect ourselves, and that is what we will continue to do with this most recent announcement concerning our schoolchildren.”