Superintendent Says Montclair Public Schools Will Not Open Monday For In Person, Hybrid Learning

Update: The MEA responds, says mediation will take place Saturday.

“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. As a result, I cannot open our buildings to students as planned,” Montclair Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds announced Friday, in an email to families, caregivers and staff.

“My team and I will be meeting with the Montclair Education Association (MEA) along with a third-party mediator this weekend to facilitate an agreement. We are also working in consultation with our legal counsel.”

The news comes after a tumultuous Montclair Board of Education meeting Wednesday, where members of the Montclair Education Association shared their concerns about returning to in person learning.

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

“All students in all grades will remain fully remote during this time, continuing to follow their original remote schedules. They will participate in live, synchronous teaching and learning until personnel and staffing issues are resolved.

“We remain concerned for the emotional well-being of every student, please be sure to reach out to your principals and counselors for any support you need. The district has access to resources, information, and counseling services to meet the social and emotional needs of our students.”

“Additionally, the Counseling Corner and Community Resource Guide on our website contain a host of useful resources, including hotlines, local health agencies, educational materials, articles, videos and more.”

We will communicate as soon as possible when in-person learning can begin, and we will continue to provide weekly updates.”

On December 2, after two postponements, Dr. Ponds had announced that elementary schools would open for in person learning on Monday, January 25.

Since then, the opening has appeared uncertain after the Montclair Education Association came out strongly in favor of continuing remote learning. The New Jersey Education Association has also supported the MEA in calling for a continuation of remote learning.

Parents in favor of in person learning have formed groups and started petitions urging the Montclair Board of Education and Dr. Ponds to open schools as planned.

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