‘Enraged is a good word’: Parents express frustration with delay in opening Montclair schools
President Joe Biden announced a goal of reopening most K-12 schools across the U.S. in his first week of office, but for some districts in New Jersey, including Montclair, the thought of going back to in-class instruction seems to be slipping further away.
Montclair schools were scheduled to reopen for a hybrid model of instruction Tuesday, but district leaders claim they couldn’t because they could not properly staff their schools.
A group of parents and kids rallied again to bring students back to the classroom after another delay. The most recent delay was announced Friday, as district leaders sent a letter notifying parents they could not properly staff their schools.
"As far as we know, the Board of Ed and our superintendent has told us that schools are safe,” says Deirdra Carlough, with Montclair Families Advocating for In-Person Learning. “They have submitted the opening plan to the state and it's been approved so as parents we believe them and we are ready to go back to school."
The Montclair Education Association, the teacher's union representing the staff in the district, believes it isn't safe to return, citing a variety of issues with ventilation and disinfecting methods used in the schools.
"We all want to be back to in person instruction,” says Petal Robertson, president of the Montclair Education Association. “We all want to be able to return to our classrooms and return to our students, but we all want to make sure that we are never sacrificing the health and safety of our children, their families or our members."
District leaders were expected to meet with representatives from the Montclair Education Association on Saturday as part of a mediation process. In a statement from Montclair Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds, he talked about the meeting over the weekend.
"District representatives and I met virtually with a mediator and the Montclair Education Association on Saturday afternoon,” says Dr. Ponds. “Although we have not reached an amicable resolution, we continue our discussions with the MEA, the mediator and legal counsel, with the goal of returning our students to the classroom as soon as possible."
Parents also expressed frustration with the delay in opening schools.
"We are incredibly frustrated, enraged is a good word,” says Montclair parent Gayley Avery. “However, unfortunately, we weren't too surprised because the delays happened nearly five times now. We were told that school would be open and we were disappointed."
Teachers believe expediting vaccinations for teachers will help get staff back in the classroom sooner.