Montclair PTA Council (PTAC) released a statement “Safely Returning to Our Schools” Monday. The statement was constructed with input from the PTA presidents of all the Montclair public schools, except for Montclair High School which does not have a PTA. The statement was sent to the superintendent and all members of the Board of Education.
Safely Returning to Schools
The Montclair PTA Council recognizes the complexity and difficulty faced by all interested parties in the district during this very difficult time as they make decisions about whether to return to school in person and how to safely do so.
PTAC must advocate for ALL of our families in deciding what is best for their children. Some families want their children to continue to receive 100% remote instruction. We support those families. Other families feel that their children would benefit from returning to school in person when the schools reopen using the hybrid model. We support those families as well.
As a matter of equity, PTAC has a moral and ethical responsibility to advocate for all students. Families, of course, have the final say on whether they feel it is safe to send their children to school after considering all the information available to them and their personal circumstances. Given the large number of families who have expressed interest in sending their children back to school in person, PTAC is in support of planning for hybrid instruction in accordance with State requirements so that all families can make the best choices for their children.
We understand that many people are frustrated with the amount of information available to them at this time and we expect the administration to pay careful attention to those concerns. We also expect, of course, that the buildings will be made safe for teachers, staff and students in accordance with State and CDC guidelines in advance of any return to schools. This expectation assumes, in good faith, that the district will also provide sufficient and timely evidence of the safety measures taken to allay as much reopening-related anxiety as possible.
We observe that there is frequently a natural tension in relations between the BOE and the MEA, but this must not get in the way of doing what is right for our students. We respect our teachers, many of whom have families of their own and are making similar decisions for their own children. But we expect to see all stakeholders in the Montclair Public School District acting thoughtfully and constructively for the benefit of our children.
We were disappointed by the troubled attempt at re-launching in-person instruction for our ABA classes. We understand that teachers have reasonable questions and concerns about safety during this pandemic. We urge the MEA to clearly set forth a reasonable list of achievable expectations aligned with State and CDC laws and guidelines and the approved and initiated launch of in-person instruction in peer school districts as soon as possible. This would help to facilitate timely response by the district in advance of the next scheduled in-person instruction start date(s).
We soundly reject the notion that we must choose between supporting our teachers and supporting the district in its reopening plan. The role of the school district is to educate our children and put their best interests first, while answering directives received from county, state and federal authorities addressing both safety and educational needs. As PTAC, we are committed to ensuring that the interests of all students and families are represented in the process. If the interests of stakeholders conflict, we urge everyone to stay focused on the educational, physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing of the children of the Montclair Public Schools.