By ERIN ROLL
Montclair’s schools will close for at least two weeks due to the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak, resulting in students and teachers taking part in “virtual learning” beginning Monday, March 16.
The announcement, sent via a letter from interim Superintendent Nathan Parker Friday afternoon, warned parents that the closure could be longer, depending on circumstances.
“We will evaluate the need to open schools or remain closed, in approximately two weeks,” Parker wrote. “However, please prepare as if school buildings will be closed through April 19. If circumstances indicate that we stay closed until spring break, schools will reopen on Monday, April 20.”
All school buildings will be closed, and all evening and weekend events at the schools are also canceled for the duration of the shutdown. All athletic and co-curricular activities are likewise suspended.
Montclair’s first COVID-19 case was identified by the New Jersey Department of Health on Thursday, March 12. The patient, a 66-year-old woman, is currently receiving treatment at Mountainside Hospital.
Online instruction will be provided through Google Classroom and through other methods, including some pencil-and-paper activities. “School principals and teachers will communicate in more detail to students and guardians with specific information related to your children’s remote learning plan,” the district said. Families are asked to keep in regular touch with their schools’ teachers and principals, and the district is working out details on two-way communication between school staff and families
Attendance will be taken for online learning, and building principals will be sending out further instructions and details, Parker wrote.
For families whose children receive free or reduced-price meals, the district’s food service vendor will provide lunches for the duration of the shutdown.
“The pick-up sites will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following schools: Nishuane (back parking lot entrance), Hillside (parking lot entrance), and MHS (front doors at the circle). A non-perishable breakfast will be provided when lunch is picked up for the next day. Toni’s Kitchen will also be providing fresh groceries one day a week at each of these pick-up locations,” the district said. Further details are pending.
Remote instruction and support will be provided for students receiving special education services.
The technology department is preparing laptops and WiFi hotspots for student use. More details will be available on Monday, the district said. “The pick-up location will be at Hillside School on the B side entrance (red door) on Monday between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.” A survey was sent to families via the Genesis portal. Families who have not completed a survey are advised to do so as soon as possible.
“We understand that this remote learning plan will cause significant impact on your family, our community, and our staff. Please know that we made this decision solely for the health and safety of everyone,” Parker wrote. “While your children are not in the school buildings, please remember that social distancing is known to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, and we urge you to advise your children to continue this practice for the safety of your extended family and community.”
Numerous school districts in New Jersey have already taken steps to close for at least two weeks. On Thursday, it was announced that all of Bergen County’s schools would close for two weeks. That county has the largest number of COVID-19 cases, with 13 of the 29 presumptive cases reported there as of Thursday, as well as the state’s first fatality.
The Millburn Public Schools announced Thursday that they would be closing for two weeks, following a consultation with the township council, the local board of health, and the executive county superintendent. Livingston’s schools will also close for two weeks starting on March 16.
Several states, including Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, New Mexico and Oregon, announced Thursday that schools in those states would be closed statewide.