By ERIN ROLL
Montclair’s schools will be operating under a different calendar as Montclair High School deals with two lost days from the Sept. 7 staircase collapse, and prepares for potential snow days.
Two changes have been announced so far: schools will be closed on Election Day and the last day of school for the high school, along with the graduation ceremony, have been moved from June 25 to June 26.
The district is also exploring an alternate venue for the graduation ceremony, Superintendent Kendra Johnson said in a letter sent to parents. The auditorium will not be available for use during the ceremony, since the main high school building, where the auditorium is located, will be closed for asbestos abatement.
“The entire Main Building will be closed for the asbestos abatement process. The Annex cannot handle the size of our graduation. We are exploring other options for graduation,” Johnson said.
The high school will be operating on an abbreviated day or half-day schedule starting May 20 when the main building closes. Under the schedule, students will report for classes in the annex either during a four hour morning shift or a four hour afternoon shift. May 20 was chosen because most of the seniors will be off the premises taking AP exams or participating in a senior option program. All remaining students will attend classes in the annex.
At the Oct. 15 BOE meeting, Johnson said that the executive county superintendent has told the district that they cannot waive the two lost days, and that those two days must be made up.
The district has been weighing options including holding classes on weekends or during holiday breaks. If Montclair misses more than three days because of snow, the district will start subtracting days from spring break.
Both Johnson and BOE Vice President Joe Kavesh acknowledged that neither of those two options would be popular with parents or staff.
Under New Jersey state law, schools must be in session for at least 180 days a year. For the 2018-2019 school year, Montclair has 183 student days scheduled and have had two unexpected closures to date.
Department of Education spokesperson Mike Yaple said the DOE has the authority to waive the 180-day requirement, but said that the state has not done so in recent memory, even in cases where schools missed several days because of snow.
Some districts may exercise the option of subtracting days from spring break, Yaple said, noting that those decisions are left to the district.
The district has decided to close all of the schools on Election Day, Nov. 6, and use that day as a staff development day.
All of Montclair’s schools, except for Charles H. Bullock, are used as polling places in Montclair. Due to facilities problems at the high school, BOE President Laura Hertzog said, opening the schools on Election Day was not an option.
“We really can’t. It’s not fair to the high school community, which has been disrupted so much,” Hertzog said.
One of the school’s auditoriums is used as a polling place. Due to the closure of 31 classrooms, that room is being used for classroom space.
The schools are also scheduled to be closed during the week of Election Day due to the NJEA conference on Thursday, Nov. 8, and Friday, Nov. 9.
The calendar changes and the school closings have also posed some challenges for Project Graduation, the end-of-year party for graduating seniors. Immediately following the graduation ceremony, the graduates are taken to an undisclosed location for a late-night party.
Although the venue was already booked, the party was able to be rescheduled to June 26 to coincide with this year’s graduation.