MHS staircase
MHS parents Jessica Henry, left, and Amy Rabb-Liu speak to the Montclair Board of Education on Wednesday, May 1. Henry launched a Change.org petition urging the district to re-think the proposed May 20 transition at the high school, and Rabb-Liu assembled an alternative schedule with help from other parents. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

District officials are discussing with contractors the possibility of delaying the asbestos removal that will close the high school on May 20. But BOE President Laura Hertzog cautioned that it might not be possible.

“If we do not begin [construction work] on May 20, it will not be done by the fall,” Hertzog said. The school would have to keep the classroom trailers, and only two staircases would likely be completed.

The May 20 transition schedule — which will go into effect after the main high school building closes for asbestos removal — was unveiled in April. The schedule includes three hours of classes and three hours of study hall.

Parent Jessica Henry started a petition on Change.org, asking the district to reconsider the schedule at the high school. As of Thursday, the petition had 647 signatures. The petition included an alternate schedule.

Parents complained about the proposed schedule, especially the three hours of study hall that were included. The study hall times are to be opportunities when students can take elective classes or get tutoring, known as “opportunity labs.”

Superintendent Kendra Johnson acknowledged that the terms study hall and opportunity labs have generated confusion among parents.

The opportunity labs include in-school tutoring, curriculum support classes, college essay writing, resume writing, career exploration, chemistry prep and video-game design. The Montclair Volunteer Ambulance Unit will be conducting a CPR class, and the Montclair Film Festival will offer a documentary film class, Johnson said.

According to parent and school paraprofessional Nicole Farjani, school officials said only 10 percent of the students would be allowed to have the expanded learning opportunities.

Henry also had doubts about the opportunity labs. “It’s hard to believe all those electives will be available in a meaningful way to all 1,700 students.”

The revised schedule presented in the petition includes off-campus opportunities such as volunteering and off-site studying.

Montclair High School teacher Greg Woodruff disputed the board’s statement that teachers had been involved in putting together the May 20 schedule.

District officials will know if there’s a possibility of delaying the start by Tuesday, May 7.