By ERIN ROLL
Montclair High School students will have half days on March 1 and May 24, instead of full days off, to make up for two days lost in the beginning of the school year due to the staircase collapse.
The Montclair Board of Education made the decision to reserve those days as makeup days during the Jan. 14 BOE meeting.
The days chosen were originally scheduled as staff development days for teachers.
Students will be expected to be at school from 7:50 a.m. until 1:07 p.m. on March 1 and May 24. The remainder of the day will be used for staff development.
Following the staircase collapse, the school closed on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 while architects and engineers assessed the damage, inspected other stairwells and ultimately closed off five stairwells.
Under New Jersey state law, schools must be in session for a minimum of 180 student days.
The Montclair schools are in session for 189 days, including 183 student days. However, three of those student days are reserved for use as snow days, said Superintendent Kendra Johnson.
The other option had been to declare an earlier day – Jan. 22 instead of May 24 – as one of the makeup days.
But there were concerns at the Jan. 14 meeting about scheduling Jan. 22 as a makeup day with little advance notice.
Other challenges include arranging transportation, since the rest of the district is scheduled to be closed on that day. The other concern is trying to work around the vacation schedules for families and staff.
During the Jan. 14 meeting, Johnson said she preferred making up the day in January instead of May because AP exams were scheduled for May.
Board member Jessica de Koninck also said she preferred the option of having the schools open on Jan. 22.
“I understand that it’s a lot of moving parts, but it’s Jan. 14 [now],” said Board President Laura Hertzog. “We closed at the last minute for Election Day, we can’t close at the last minute again.”
Hertzog said changing the date on short notice would be unfair to families, especially working families and families with multiple children.
“Listening to your perspective, I think I agree with you,” BOE member Priscilla Church said.
Board member Latifah Jannah said she had also been leaning toward the Jan. 22 option, due to snow days, but she said after hearing Hertzog’s viewpoint, she was inclined to agree.
More days could have to be made up by high school students if the district has snow days.
“I think what we should decide, if we need those snow days, which days of spring break are we giving up?” de Koninck said.
The school calendar includes this advisory to parents on days that need to be made up: “If emergency or snow days are required, any in excess of three will be made up as full days in the following sequence: 4/26, 4/25, 4/24, 4/23, 4/22. Any days in excess of these days may require extending the school year. When advisable, a two-hour delayed opening will be used rather than an emergency closing. A delayed opening on an early dismissal day will cancel the early dismissal and school will end at the regular time. On delayed opening days, staff is expected at the regular time or as soon after as weather permits.”
The last scheduled day of school is June 26, which will be an abbreviated day.