MontClairVoyant: School-Reopening Debate Is Heated During a Cold Winter

Montclair’s 11 public school buildings met via Zoom to discuss whether they should reopen for families who want that. Can those brick-and-cement structures now ask you some questions, going alphabetically by school name?

The Doors of Perception

Okay, but given how old most of those buildings are, I’m surprised they’re adept at new technology. Not surprising is that all their digital passwords include “brick” or “cement.”

Hi, this is Bradford, near Mount Hebron Cemetery where No. 2 pencils are buried when they’re sharpened too small. I and other elementary school buildings were supposed to reopen in “hybrid” mode January 25 but didn’t. Why?

Dee Lay and Dee Lay (We’re Twins!)

The superintendent and others say schools are now safe enough (ventilation, etc.) while the Montclair Education Association and others have their doubts. Improving air flow by installing roof shingles made of swiss cheese is apparently out of the question.

Hi, I’m Bullock, a newer Montclair school situated on a Washington Street that’s named after George Washington and Della Street (of “Perry Mason”). Why the heck hasn’t New Jersey prioritized teachers for vaccinations?

E. Senshullworkers

Teachers and other school staff SHOULD be near the front of the line. I’d love to see them at Essex County’s friendly and efficient COVID vaccination site in West Orange’s former Kmart store, where vaccine doses stay cold because coats are no longer sold there.

Hi, I’m Buzz Aldrin Middle School, where the top floor is closer to the moon than the first floor. What do students think of coming back inside my classrooms?

Belle Vue

Like many students, my Buzz daughter is mostly tired of remote learning and wants to see her friends but is worried about the health of Buzz adults if the school reopens too soon. Also, she’s skeptical that the building’s heavy weight was caused by it eating too much tasty food from nearby restaurants.


Hi, I’m the Edgemont school building, near where Edgemont Park’s geese are social-distanced from kangaroos in Australia. What’s an interesting fact about the Board of Education these days?

A VERY Interesting Fact

Our school district has tried to start hybrid in-person learning — which many families want/need and many families don’t want yet — even as BOE meetings remain remote. I asked an Edgemont goose about double standards, and it honked that late baseball great Hank Aaron had 624 doubles.

Hi, I’m Glenfield in southeastern Montclair, closer to Trump in Florida than most other local schools — argh! What do you think of The New York Times publishing a story a few days ago about our town’s school situation?

All the Gnus Fit to Print

That newspaper over-covers Montclair, perhaps partly because a number of its staffers live here. Heck, put Montclair in the NYT website’s search box and…wait…you can’t squeeze 39,000 people into a website search box.

Hi, I’m Hillside, and I was indeed on the side of Anita Hill in 1991. Getting back to vaccine prioritization, can you believe that smokers are being given shots before teachers?

Marlboro In

Deeply disturbing decision. I wonder if New Jersey would have allowed other kinds of smokers — the devices that cook meat — to be vaccinated if needles could pierce their metal shells.

Hi, I’m Montclair High, and I weigh more than Buzz despite not being near as many restaurants. After some of my stairs semi-collapsed in 2018, and COVID hit in 2020, how many more things can happen to my staff and students?

Doom Then Zoom

One positive is that no Class of 2020 members went on to become Electoral College students. That campus is not very appealing.

Hi, I’m Nishuane, a school with the same name as a park, a pool, and a panda, except for the panda part. How will you fit my other building buddies into a column already getting too long?

The Sense of an Ending

You mean Northeast, Renaissance, and Watchung? They’ll have their star turns another time. To ease the disappointment, almost-Applegate-adjacent Northeast promised Renaissance and Watchung a hybrid…of ice cream and cones.



Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.



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  1. Dave,

    I’m not clear how we will retrofit the school buildings for ventilation AND add solar panels to the roofs. It just seems to be a lot of mechanicals fighting for space.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. I imagine enough space could be found for everything. Whether there’s enough money for everything is another matter…

  3. Ya gotta love our CDC and their lack of foresight when it comes to viruses and pandemics. As Forest always say, stupid is as stupid does. So, we need to get vaccines into as many arms as possible, pronto. Actually, faster than pronto. Right? I want to make sure I understood the virologists. But, the case numbers are going down. Even deaths are going down. Why give up on the plan? I’m seriously confused. There is an 800 number for Round-Up, the Catholic Church, etc. There should be an 800 number for this.

    Is there something else? Just maybe we might want to explain a little better? Rather than talk out of both sides of your mouths. Ah, never mind. The trend is down. Let’s open up the schools. That is what the virologists said. All good. Open the schools. It is for the children!

    I watched CBS News @ 6 tonight. Now I know why people gp the Facebook for their news. They dutifully reported out mind-numbing stuff. They reported COVID case, hospitalization & death numbers for today. That was it. No tie in, no point fo reference. Nothing. Apparently people watch this stuff.

  4. Case numbers are still high in various places. Deaths as a percentage of cases might be going down, but there are still way too many deaths. And I don’t think schools should reopen at least until many more teachers and other school staff are vaccinated.

  5. Agree…and the indicators are for worse. However, the experts in virology are now regularly wading in to economics, etc and are killing their credibility. Absolutely killing it. I won’t go into all the examples, but they are not learning their lesson…and have lost their excuses for not performing. Therefore, the public tide will be to open the schools no matter how strong the unions are. It is inevitable. I now accept 1MM deaths is a reasonable number. As Dr Fauci so simplistically said the other day, there are rules to virulency (OMG, just shocking!), e.g. “if it can’t replicate, it can’t mutate”. He actually said that. Wow. The ol’ ‘if you don’t, then it won’t” argument. Priceless. The NIH is coming up on the inside of the CDC for the best quotes of the pandemic.

  6. Economics are indeed a big part of many matters and decisions — even in cases where health should be the main emphasis. 🙁

  7. Dave, you are absolutely correct. Get all the staff vaccinated then we talk opening. Ventilation seems out of the question now, there are too many buildings to retrofit and it would simply cost too much for the town. Maybe some grant writing would help but it seems the super is too busy writing a Friday diatribe. Frank, some good points if I can wade through the different thought threads. As for mutations, this virus breaks the mold. Most mutations are less virulent and deadly but not this one. So no need to break on Dr. Fauci, he’s in the same boat as we are, the unknown.

    But where are all the parents worried about their little darlings missing in person schooling when we can’t even get a couple of snow days so they can go out and play? Gone are the days when children can be children watching all the snow and knowing they have at least one snow day and probably two this time around. How excited do you remember being? Give the parents a break so they can shovel in the morning not at 2pm? A couple of hills by Northeast for sleigh riding might be just what the doctor ordered. Nah.. penalize the teachers because they didn’t bend to your will. That’s leadership. Montclair Immaculate HS has a full snow day with the administration saying “stay safe and stay warm”. I’ll add, have fun. I know they will.

  8. Thank you for the comment, louielouie!

    With vaccines out there, it indeed makes sense to wait for teachers and staff to be vaccinated before schools reopen in hybrid or full-time mode. Gov. Murphy has done some positive and some not-so-positive things; his baffling decision to not prioritize teachers and school staff as one of the earlier groups for vaccinations is definitely in the latter category.

    I also agree that students should have been given the day off today (something I already included in my next column I’m writing for this Thursday). It would have been a nice, no-brainer gesture.

  9. “As for mutations, this virus breaks the mold. “

    Actually, it doesn’t. It’s more like the difference between a parent’s first and second child or your first and second pet. That is why Dr Fauci mentioned The Rules they all know.
    I think we should bring to bear the full force of our MEA history teachers. Let them tell us about the similarities and differences with 1918-20 and now. Let them tell us of similarities and differences with American home front life in Feb, 1942 and, 2 years later in Feb, 1944. And describe it for all people, of various backgrounds.

    We live in a bubble. We go back to our early years and look forward a year. My point is that this pandemic will be with us through the Winter of 2023, at a minimum. At least based on what I can glean from the virology experts.

    Just for kicks and gives, let’s plan for the worse and hope for the best. Too drastic? Let’s have one – yes just one press conference that talks about the worse case long-term outlook. Again, just to change things up.

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