MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair School District officials have announced a postponement of the reopening of schools after an individual tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a recent statement issued by Superintendent Johnathan Ponds, Pre-K to fifth grade has been pushed back to a November 16 start and middle and high school students are set to return on November 30. 

Despite much pushback from school district staff due to safety concerns, Montclair’s elementary schools were set to reopen on November 9, and the middle school and high school were scheduled to reopen on November 23.

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However, after an individual at Watchung School tested positive for COVID-19, then officials announced the change Friday. 

Ponds wrote, "As some of you already know, a confirmed case of COVID was reported this week in the Watchung Elementary School. Watchung families were informed of the cleaning steps and staff members in the building are in self-quarantine. As a result, we have moved our hybrid reopening date for PreK-Grade 5 until November 16 and for Grades 6-12 until November 30. Although disappointing, this decision reflects our best judgment regarding the health and safety of all concerned."

He added, “Although disappointing, this decision reflects our best judgment regarding the health and safety of all concerned."

 

The entire letter is below:

Dear Families, Caregivers and Staff,


As some of you already know, a confirmed case of COVID was reported this week in the Watchung
Elementary School. Watchung families were informed of the cleaning steps and staff members in the
building are in self-quarantine. As a result, we have moved our hybrid reopening date for PreK-Grade
5 until November 16 and for Grades 6-12 until November 30. Although disappointing, this decision
reflects our best judgment regarding the health and safety of all concerned.

 

Our Buildings and Grounds team along with outside contractors are focused on preparing our hybrid
classrooms. We are endeavoring to answer your questions and address your concerns as quickly and
efficiently as possible. Likewise, we understand that even after in-person classes begin, new questions
and concerns will arise. We appreciate your patience as we prioritize tasks and communications and
remain confident in our plans for a safe and engaging learning experience.

 

The details provided below will help you understand the scheduling and logistics for the classrooms in
PreK-Grade 5. More information about the Grades 6-12 hybrid reopening will be available in the next
update.

 

Arrival and Dismissal
School principals will communicate to their families specific guidance for the arrival and dismissal of
students with a focus on the fulfillment of all safety protocols. Earlier we indicated that students could
arrive 10 minutes before the bell, but that procedure has changed. Please do not drop off students
until each school’s designated start time. This will allow the teachers time to enter the building and
follow their own safety procedures before student arrival. Our apologies for any confusion.
Hybrid and Remote Teaching and Learning - A peek into the classroom
The district’s Department of Equity, Curriculum and Instruction, working with colleagues in the
Department of Technology, have been researching best practices to create a model for teaching all of
our students—those who choose to come into the school buildings for face-to-face instruction and
those who opt to learn remotely. Their research included consultations with educators from other
districts, including Livingston and Princeton, as well as a site visit to the Millburn Public School District.

All Kids Can Learn ~ All Kids Are Special ~ Email: jponds@montclair.k12.nj.us

The model in brief: PreK-Grade 5 classroom teachers will work with both an assigned district laptop
and additional device to engage students learning remotely even as they interact with those at their
desks. Both in-classroom and at-home students will see the same Smartboard—life-sized in the
classroom, screen-sized at home. Teachers will be fully trained in this mode of instruction by the time
doors open.

 

For a glimpse of this teaching model in action, a video will be available on Monday.
Changing from Hybrid/Virtual

 

You may request to change your child from hybrid to virtual at any time by notifying the teacher and
the principal. A change from virtual to hybrid is only allowed at the end of a trimester in Grades PreK-5
and at the end of marking period in Grades 6-12. Please note that we are making a correction to the
date for switching from virtual to hybrid for elementary students.
• Elementary schools: The first trimester ends on December 10, and if you wish your child to
return to hybrid for the second trimester, you must notify your principal by December 1.
• Middle Schools and High School: The date remains the same. If you wish your child to return
to hybrid for the second marking period, you must notify your principal by January 6.

 

Mounties and Bulldogs
All families will be notified through Genesis of their children’s placement in the Mountie or Bulldog
cohorts. We are currently balancing the groups.

 

Transportation
You will be notified of your children’s bus stop the week prior to school reopening for the hybrid
model.

 

Before and Aftercare
The YMCA of Montclair, working in partnership with the Montclair Board of Education, is committed to
providing before and aftercare programs for the Montclair School District beginning November 30. A
YMCA satellite program will be in all elementary and middle schools provided a minimum enrollment is
met and space is available. Space will be limited due to new state guidelines and rooms available in
each school. More information will be forthcoming.
Online registration will begin November 16, and you can find further information on the YMCA
website.

 

Facilities
The work on mechanical systems in our buildings continues as we move toward opening the
elementary schools on November 16.
Our schools—including Charles H. Bullock, our newest building—have both mechanical and natural
ventilation. Areas in which the sole source of ventilation is natural or where repairs are still in progress
will be supplied with air purifiers. If mechanical ventilation is working properly, air purifiers are not
needed.

All Kids Can Learn ~ All Kids Are Special ~ Email: jponds@montclair.k12.nj.us
The Montclair Police Department will be increasing patrols around all of our schools as an extra
security measure, as we will have windows open in certain rooms.

 

The proposed medium-term project of bi-polar ionization is currently in the design phase and will take
several months to complete. The long-term, more involved projects will take longer. A timeline is
currently being developed and this will not affect the reopening of schools in a safe manner.
For your convenience we have put together a Facilities Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
document which is posted to the COVID page on our website.
Health and Wellness

 

As we approach re-entry, please make sure your child’s required health records have been submitted
to your child’s school nurse. The nurse can answer your questions regarding these records.
Before students return to hybrid, families will be required to complete a COVID-19 health and wellness
contract which will be available in Genesis in the coming weeks.

 

Reminder: With Halloween approaching, the state has provided guidance for celebrating safely.
Reminder: Addressing positive cases of COVID-19

 

While we are in the hybrid model, we will be addressing positive cases of COVID-19 on a case-by-case
basis. We will follow all guidelines from the CDC, Montclair Health Department and our medical team
with respect to contact tracing, notification, quarantine periods, and class and/or school closure. If
someone is excluded from school because of COVID, we will require several factors to be met before
allowing return, such as symptoms, quarantine time, and medical clearance note. The school nurse
will be your point of contact should the need arise. As always, your health and safety are of utmost
importance.

 

Food Service
Please be advised that based on the new dates for the hybrid opening, a revised food service schedule
will be released in the coming weeks. Food service is available for every child regardless of free and
reduced meal status.

 

Technology
If you are in need of a device or a hotspot, please email your child’s principal as we are only a few
weeks away from our hybrid opening. We will continue to distribute devices/hotspots to our students
and families in need. Anyone who is having technical difficulty should contact our Technology Support
Line at 301-259-1510, Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 3 PM.
Reminder: Devices are distributed at Hillside School on Tuesdays, from 9 AM to 12 PM.

At this time, I’d like to thank Ms. Terry Trigg Scales for her support and hard work as Montclair High
School’s Interim Principal since September. Officially, her last day is today; however, we know that she
will always be a Mountie at heart. The families, students, and staff of Montclair High as well as our
entire district truly appreciate her service, especially during these challenging times. We wish her the 
best. Ms. Eileen Gilbert, currently Assistant Principal at Montclair High, will be taking the helm as
Acting High School Principal on November 2. High School parents will be receiving an update about
next steps for the high school leadership later today.

 

As we gear up for the cooler temperatures and wonder how we will cope with limited outdoor time, I’d
like to share an article that one of our counselors brought to my attention. Taking care of our
emotional health is just as important as our physical health.
Please remember the district is closed Tuesday, November 3, for Election Day; and Thursday and
Friday, November 5 and 6, for the NJEA convention.
Wishing you a safe, healthy, and relaxing week.

Sincerely,
Dr. Jonathan Ponds
Superintendent

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