Letter on School Safety, Feb 20, 2018

February 20, 2018
Dear JCPS Community,
In the last week, we have been flooded with tragedies in schools nearby and far away. Last week we read of the untimely death of a six-year old in North Bergen and this morning we learned of a child in Elizabeth who also passed away, both deaths probably caused by the flu. This alone is hard to bear. How does a community cope with the loss of a child?
Then, on Friday we learned of the tragedy in a Florida high school with many more casualites. I began writing this message to you then, but words alone didn’t seem to be enough. How do you comprehend the incomprehensible? How do you calm fears in the wake of such horrific events?
As parents, as educators, as members of our own communities, our prayers are of course with the families of the Parkland community. We share the national sense of outrage that this is happening all too often. We have learned all too well that there is no place that is 100% secure, not concerts, not schools, not even churches. However, as a community and as a school district, we must do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our students, schools and streets for everyone.
We have to first ensure that we are a caring community, sensitive to the needs of students and adults. Our schools will be extremely vigilant and will tend to those in distress or get them the help they need. We will be exercising an “abundance of caution” when confronted with potential threats both from disease and those who want to do us harm. We will be diligent in following our security protocols, and work with our security teams as well as the police in our schools to ensure students and staff are safe.
We will also continue to follow the cleaning procedures we put in place in the face of the flu outbreak this year. We are sanitizing doors, flushes, handles, knobs, and anything else that gets touched frequently, every day, to prevent the spread of germs. We are providing child friendly hand sanitizer to our classrooms and have posted information on preventing the spread of germs throughout our schools. We also ask parents to keep sick children home, even if the illness seems like a mere cold and to get students flu shots if they haven’t had them already. We have provided information on the spread of the flu on our website as well.
Though we are all distressed by the news of late, we must not let ourselves be under siege. The students of Parkland are seizing the moment, with a call to action. We too must seize the opportunity to strengthen our resolve to cultivate a safe, nurturing environment for all.
Marcia V. Lyles, Ed.D.
Jersey City Public Schools
Envision Excellence and Equity Everywhere