Citing Rising COVID-19 Cases, Montclair Education Association Calls To Postpone Hybrid Instruction

Montclair, NJ – Montclair Education Association, citing rising COVID-19 infection rates and expressing concern “over the district’s lack of communication and clarity over the decision to go back into the buildings on January 19, 2021,” is calling for Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds to postpone hybrid learning. Students are scheduled to return for hybrid learning beginning January 25.

In a statement, MEA President Petal Robertson writes:

“We are calling on Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds and the Montclair Board of Education to make the pedagogically sound and the safe decision to continue remote instruction. Our goal is to never be adversarial but instead to always be advocates. Advocates for our staff, educators, students, to not return to buildings until the numbers are mitigated and steady enough for all to do so. It will also allow our district to develop and disseminate an
explicit and comprehensive plan for all staff returning, and allay any parent concerns for their student’s safe return.”

The MEA refers to an announcement by Ponds on November 11, 2020, where he stated:

“Unfortunately, the data I received this morning demonstrates an increase in community spread of COVID-­‐‑19. It is with a heavy heart that we must continue with fully remote instruction for all students until it is safe to change course. The health of our community, students and staff is paramount and pausing our hybrid plan at this time is in the best interest of public health due to the increase in the rate of infection.”

The MEA compares the rate of infection on the day of Ponds’ November statement, 1.14, and averaging 42.8 cases per 100k people, to the current rate of infection –1.15, with cases per 100k people at 65.4.

The MEA also states that with limited people in Montclair school buildings, school buildings have already been shut down 11 different times this school year.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I have to say this was sooo predicable! So many districts around the state have brought kids back into the buildings with the proper safeguards in place, and protocols to handle cluster cases should any develop. Why not Montclair??

  2. I’m not sure which districts you refer to but have you looked at the buildings, size, ventilation, preparation? Nonetheless, why when the cases were less (positivity rate) did Ponds cancel bringing the staff and children back and now he does not address that? Who is pulling the strings in Montclair these days?
    Reading in the NYT this morning I see that smokers are now ahead of teachers on the vaccination line. Perhaps Ponds can have a heart to heart with Gov. Murphy instead of sending long winded emails that no one even get through without rolling their eyes. And the union, take all that energy and advocate for every employee, union or not, in Montclair school district to be vaccinated before opening. Basically, call it a day and open in September when it’s safe.
    So they seem to have had a walk through inspecting ventilation and I don’t know what else. And the results? Red, orange, yellow and green. What does that even mean and how is it being addressed? How about giving us a spreadsheet listed per school? Too busy composing emails for a Friday dump?
    And finally, is Central Office going all in and taking away remote working? I mean if teachers, staff, nurses and administrators are to return to the buildings is CO doing the same? This is not the way to run a district or a state for that matter. How long will it take for schools to close again with a spike in cases? As I stated above, bite the bullet and close for the year. Newark, Paterson, et.al could then look to Montclair as a leader taking bold moves to protect the children, staff and residents. Come on Dr. Ponds the ball is in your court. Good luck with your decision.

  3. In other words – we will have to wait until Covid is completely gone because “it isn’t safe” when our own staff is seen on social media gathering and dining maskless at restaurants with multiple other staff members.

    People neglect to say WHY it isn’t safe. It isn’t safe because people gather even though CDC guidelines asked them not to. Really sad that students will pay the price of adult behavior in this pandemic.

  4. LouieLouie: Here are some stats. Many counties and school districts in the state are hybrid, especially for elementary students and special education students who are very much impacted from remote only learning:
    https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/11/coronavirus-nj-more-schools-opt-some-in-person-hybrid-fewer-going-all-remote/
    A list of districts:
    https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/11/nj-school-districts-latest-plans-for-remote-in-person-or-hybrid-learning-approved/
    Also, it had been shown that schools are not a major driver of spread when proper precautions are taken that the CDC guidance and health departments have offered. Certainly no more than other activities of living that we all must do, shopping, doctor appointments etc.
    How about the youth sports that continue? Playdates that continue? Sleepovers etc….
    Just saying…. full proof no transmission? of course not, but with science- based precautions in place and public health protocols for handling cases, very manageable.
    From the state hub on the public health reporting (cases connected with schools):
    https://covid19.nj.gov/

  5. PMF, no need to wait until it’s completely gone, I’m sure you were being facetious. How about when every teacher and staff member is vaccinated? Does that work? As for adult behavior outside of the district you know we can’t regulate that in a way that is 100%. There will always be those types of people that are inconsiderate to others. You figure that one out and forget The Crown, you’re the queen (or king?)

    And to sick, “when proper precautions…” referencing CDC guidelines. Don’t CDC guidelines specify proper ventilation? Let me ask you, would you teach a class in the HS basement or the Bradford reading room? And with the new more contagious variant how can you say things are “very manageable”? Some schools have gone back to hybrid model, I agree. But have you done the analysis of student population (number, age), positivity rate among the towns people? The charts are merely a snapshot with no real depth to them.

    Vaccinate the staff, fix the ventilation, practice true CDC guidelines and then open the schools. Unless of course you want to sub a few classes a day in a room with no windows. But now I’m being facetious since I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Or start smoking, I heard you can jump to the front of the line. Time to step back and fix the flaws in the system and then you can open up everything. We are really almost there, let’s not lower our guard. A few more months is all it will take.

  6. I disagree. If you spent time checking out the links I pasted you’d see, the many schools throughout the state that are not “remote only”. The local health departments have oversight regarding tracking of cases/ clusters/ outbreaks that may develop and take the appropriate action based on that. That is what they do, their expertise.
    Regarding the ventilation issues you cite, with a hybrid model only half the student population is in the buildings at one time, so no need to use the poorly ventilated rooms you mentioned. Furthermore, with a number of parents choosing remote for their kids, that’s even less than half the normal school population in the buildings.
    Not to mention other states that are holding in person classes again with procedures in place.
    If the school staff are now considered “essential”, then why must they only work from home while essential workers like hospital staff, stores, transit,etc. Continue to to work as they did. You’re either essential or your not. Can’t have it both ways

  7. I did check out the links and they told me nothing about the towns that were full remote, and many still are, or the towns with hybrid/full student populations. As I said the reporting was thin to say the least.

    Do you know how much transmission is in those districts, the positivity rate, death rate, ages? No of course you don’t or you would have posted comparative studies to Montclair. Last I looked the rate here was exploding. Take one, just one Somerset NJ population about 20k full remote. Montclair pop 40k hybrid? Why? And one further stat, how many districts have changed their model since mid October? Check it out it’s on your link.

    As for ventilation, if you believe the classrooms where learning will take place are properly ventilated then show me the money. Prove it with local health department expertise that you quote. I’ve seen no such thing anywhere in Montclair. Why? Because no such study exists and if it does it will probably show the buildings are not truly safe.

    Most front line essential workers have been, or are either in the front of the line, to be vaccinated. Where are teachers? How many kids come to school with fever and sickness because parents have to go to work? I hope you know that teachers want to teach not be at home. But they also don’t want to get sick with a horrible virus that might kill them. I’m not sure why you want to insist they take that chance. Perhaps spend some energy getting the teachers to the front of the line so they can come back to work safely.

    And last thing thinking about the little ones. So you send them back to school, the teacher tests positive and another staff member the same. School closed. Kids back to a week and now home again. What kind of message is that and how would that affect their perception of how we adults are handling the situation? And the really young ones will be confused at best. So why not wait, get every teacher vaccinated and return full force in September?

  8. LL: “Do you know how much transmission is in those districts, the positivity rate, death rate, ages? No of course you don’t or you would have posted” — Do you know?? No you don’t either. That data can be found easily but it will take a bit of time to compile which I admit I don’t have today, but maybe you can? But for a “quick look” just go to the link I posted of the nj covid dashboard and scroll to the bottom where you can click on schools. It lists all the public health data collected for each municipality concerning cases and out breaks for the districts.
    As to this:
    “And last thing thinking about the little ones. So you send them back to school, the teacher tests positive and another staff member the same. School closed. Kids back to a week and now home again. ”
    No, that’s not how it works. The whole school doesn’t close for one teacher case!! Again check out the local public health protocols on how cases vs. clusters vs outbreaks are managed…
    And finally, no Montclair is NOT ” exploding” with cases. Increase Post holidays, yes as expected but not “exploding”. Hyperbole.

  9. The Montclair Health Department will confirm we are in Community Spread. The cases are not exploding. In fact, they have been strangely consistent since the beginning of November…75 days. What has fluctuated since early September is the demographics of cases…and when they dropped and rose. Regardless, we are in the same exactly situation as we were in April.

    Yes, some will call out ‘hyperbole’. Go ahead. Go on the record, please. I think they would be wrong and I also think they will be shown wrong…and not hold themselves accountable. Fine.
    But, look at the amount of testing. Look at the populations. Do some 3rd grade math. I’m angry because people are making the same mistakes for economic reasons. I’m fine with that, too. Really. But, at least say so. People should at least be held to saying so. Again, look at the total amount of PCR tests done in Montclair. Look at how many have been done in the County. In the State.

    The laughable point you should appreciate is our plan is to vaccinate everyone once a year – and we can’t even test everyone once a year. Really. Even better, the vaccination is more reliable than the PCR test. That’s another funny point you should all appreciate.

    Aging in Montclair? Seriously?

  10. And just for giggles, look at the Township’s COIVD Data Visualization Dashboard.
    Look at the squiggly pink line.

    Now visualize the arrival of mutant strains – strains that are 50% more transmissible – and how it could add to our new baseline level.

    Now remember it takes 5 weeks from the first vaccine shot to achieve protection for 95 people out of a hundred.

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