stairwell collapse
Montclair High School.
FILE PHOTO

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair High School will be closed for safety reasons on Tuesday, Sept. 11, as building inspectors examine all of the school’s staircases in the wake of a stairwell collapse on Friday.

Several officials, including district engineers, inspected the site on Monday when the students were off for Rosh Hashanah.

Both the main building and the George Inness Annex will be closed to all students, faculty, staff, parents and visitors. The only staff members allowed on site will be designated staff from the buildings and grounds department, as well as outside engineers, architects and vendors hired by the district, said Superintendent Kendra Johnson. There are a total of five stairways including the one that partially collapsed.

Certain sports teams will be allowed to practice using the Field House and its associated fields only.

The school is expected to re-open for classes on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

“While closing the high school the second week of the 18-19 school year is disappointing, it is a necessity,” Johnson said. “Once we re-open the high school, I will share the plan to address our compliance with state-required seat time for all high school students. Safety is always the focus.”

She said the district would send out notifications to families regarding any planned openings and closings.

No one was injured when a stairwell partially collapsed at the school Friday morning. The damaged stairwell was closed off, and students and staff were re-routed to the other staircases in the building. The township building department is looking into the matter.

Johnson said the district architect and director of buildings and grounds would present a report on the stairwell collapse to the Montclair Board of Education on Sept. 17.

“Aside from Bullock, all of the buildings in the district date back to the 1930s or thereabouts. As much as the buildings have character, with age comes the need for constant, thorough maintenance,” said BOE Vice President Joe Kavesh, who chairs the board’s finance and facilities committee. He added that he supported the district’s decision to close MHS on Tuesday. “Thankfully, no one was injured [last week]. Montclair High School should only reopen once the stairwell is deemed to be 100 percent structurally safe and secure. Not 99 percent.”

Kavesh said he did not immediately recall when the schools had last conducted a district-wide referendum on major capital projects.

Last year, the district’s architects of record presented the schools with a $20 million priority list of projects that ought to be done soon for health and safety reasons.