We can’t get enough teachers to open school on Monday, N.J. district says

Posted Jan 22, 2021

The Montclair School District will not reopen for in-person learning as scheduled Monday due to a shortage of staff, the district’s superintendent announced Friday evening.

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that I am unable to properly staff our schools for in-person, hybrid teaching and learning on January 25, 2021,” Montclair School District Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said in a letter to the school community. “As a result, I cannot open our buildings to students as planned.”

Instead, the district will continue the use of remote learning Monday as it has done since last March when schools were shuttered statewide.

“The decision to delay our opening of school buildings is disheartening,” Ponds said. “For all our families and students who were anxiously awaiting the return to in-person instruction, I realize how unsettling this news is.”

Earlier this week, the Montclair Education Association called for elementary teachers to continue with remote instruction after the teachers union said it had not received proof of building updates, including fixes to ventilation systems.

“...Our elementary staff is being mandated to return to their buildings without sufficient training, communication of an effective academic plan for all learners, and any evidence that the building is able to support the healthy learning environments needed to teach all of our students safely,” the union said in a release at the time.

Union representatives said Friday that it met with Ponds on Thursday via Zoom and requested “documentation regarding classroom readiness” that they said was not provided by the administration. The union said the meeting was also cut short by the superintendent with many of their questions and concerns left unanswered and unaddressed.

“We are just as confused as many members of this community. Obtaining documentation that the district claims to have, and upholding the meetings the district promised should not be difficult,” Montclair Education Association President Petal Robertson said in a statement. “However, it is our duty to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for our staff and a sound educational plan for our students. Dr. Ponds advised the association that we should always, ‘trust but verify‘ and that is what we are doing.”

Ponds said he and other administrators had planned on meeting with teachers union along with a third-party mediator and the school’s legal counsel over the weekend to hammer out an agreement between the two sides.

We are still hopeful and willing, as we look forward to mediation tomorrow,” Robertson said. “The MEA is excited to begin the collaborative work of restoring our students, staff and families.”

The superintendent said he would keep the school community appraised of the situation and would let them know when in-person learning will begin at the district.

“I want to emphasize that educating children is the district’s primary focus, and we will continue to work tirelessly to expedite in-person learning,” Ponds said. “Despite challenging circumstances, our children have been impressively resilient.”

In early December, a protest was held in Montclair to reopen schools for in-person learning but others, including the union, have called for the district to continue with virtual instruction.

About 1,000 people signed a petition calling on Ponds and the local school board to have students and faculty continue remote learning, Montclair Local first reported.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-01-23 03:44:55 -0800