Schools work to keep kids safe during ‘horrific’ flu season

A deadly flu season is prompting local school districts to take extra steps to ensure buildings are clean and safe for students.

Some Hudson County schools are bringing in crews at night to perform heavy-duty cleanings and at least one district is planning to bring nurses to its schools to give free flu shots to any student with a parent’s consent.

The dangers of this year’s flu season hit home for Hudson County residents this week when state officials confirmed that a 6-year-old North Bergen girl died of the flu Monday. Nevaeh Hernandez is the second pediatric flu death in New Jersey this year.

George Solter, superintendent of North Bergen schools, said custodians have been using bleach on surfaces while cleaning at night and disinfectant spray during school hours. Teachers are also making sure students are sneezing and coughing into their elbows to prevent germs from spreading, Solter added.

Some parents have expressed concerns about sending their children to school, but Solter said officials determined keeping the schools open was the best decision.

“The staff is doing their best and it’s just that school should be open to try to keep the normalcy for the kids,” he said.

Grief counselors have been at Lincoln School the past two days. Solter said Tuesday — the first day parents knew about the student’s death — was the only day this flu season that attendance was especially low across the district.

Bayonne Superintendent of Schools Michael Wanko sent a letter home to parents Tuesday urging them to keep students home if they are sick. The district also said the “very horrific flu season” prompted officials to begin “a very aggressive” cleaning plan.

“This would include commonly used areas as well as doorknobs, desktops, phones, water fountains, lavatories, sinks, etc.,” the letter reads. “We will be vigilant in our efforts to keep the virus in check.”

A spokeswoman for the Jersey City schools said hand sanitizer is going to be placed in classrooms and principals discussed the North Bergen student’s death with the superintendent Marcia Lyles.

One of the reasons doctors say this year’s flu season is especially bad is because the strain of the virus is mutating, making it hard to vaccinate against. As many as 4,000 people around the country are dying each week from flu-related illnesses.

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