Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Little Ferry Schools Close Following Outbreak

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Little Ferry Schools Close Following Outbreak

Article excerpt

LITTLE FERRY -- Citing a "staggering" number of student absences due to a range of illnesses, including influenza, the superintendent of the borough's public school district canceled classes on Friday so the buildings could be disinfected -- a process that he said would continue over the weekend.

The superintendent, Frank Scarafile, said that about 130 students in the K-8 district were absent on Monday and Tuesday. About 950 students attend the district's two schools, Memorial Middle School and Washington/Memorial Elementary School, which sit across from each other on Liberty Street.

The district had anticipated being closed on Thursday because of the snowstorm, and officials decided to add the extra day off.

"Over the past two weeks, especially, we've been pretty hard hit with a lot of students' absences -- anywhere from 12 to 14 percent on a pretty regular basis," Scarafile said.

The district sent a letter home with students to inform their parents about the closings. The district also posted a message on its website.

"I think we just had to break the cycle by having the four continuous days off," Ray Vorisek, the school board president, said about the decision to cancel classes on Friday. "Having 120 kids out in one day just isn't good."

Joann Fytros, the president of the Little Ferry Parent-Teacher Association, welcomed the move.

"I think it was a great idea [to close the schools] because my own son was out last week with an illness," she said. "It was like a snowball effect."

The district has been grappling with the flu and flu-like symptoms since January. On Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, "we brought in extra staff on Saturdays to disinfect the buildings," Scarafile said. "We're trying to do the right thing and be proactive." Since late January, the custodial staff has worked extra hours to clean the buildings.

If the illnesses continue to spread, the district will use the four-day weekend next week -- the district will observe a "winter recess" day on Feb. …

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