Superintendent Jonathan Ponds announcing that schools will not reopen next week.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

With Montclair Elementary Schools set to reopen on Monday, Nov. 16, Superintendent Jonathon Ponds announced today they will not due to rising daily COVID-19 cases.

Ponds sent a letter and a video message to parents tonight, Nov. 11, saying that the reopening has been postponed.

In addition, a staff member at Renaissance School has tested positive for COVID-19.

“With the rise in our cases, and the infection rate rise, it is unwise to reopen,” Ponds said in the video.

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Montclair’s elementary schools were scheduled to reopen for hybrid learning on Nov. 16, while the middle and high schools are scheduled to reopen on Nov. 30. The start of hybrid learning had been delayed in September, as the schools’ ventilation systems needed upgrades before students could be admitted to the buildings.

A return date has not been set. However, Ponds said that he would be reevaluating the situation on Dec. 1, which also means the middle schools and the high school will not reopen as planned on Nov. 30.

New Jersey is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases as the state enters its second wave of the pandemic. On Nov. 11, state health officials reported 3,078 new cases and 15 new deaths, down slightly from the 3,877 cases and 21 deaths reported the day before. To date, New Jersey has seen 263,495 cases and 14,676 deaths.

Today, Nov. 11, Montclair health officials reported 14 new cases, down from 16 the day before. The township now has 769 total cases and 57 total deaths.

On Nov. 10, Gov. Phil Murphy called the recent rise in numbers — almost to levels seen in April — “devastating.”

On Oct. 28, a staff member at Watchung tested positive for COVID-19. On Nov. 9, a staff member at Nishuane also tested positive.

Ponds said the decision to delay reopening again was based on discussions with the district physician and medical team, and the Montclair Health Department.

“Until this morning, it was still considered safe to begin in-person instruction. I know this change is disappointing news for many of you. I understand your concerns on both a professional and personal level, as schedules and routines are being disrupted. Rest assured that we will continue to do everything in our capacity to keep our work on schedule for when it is safe to conduct in-person teaching and learning,” Ponds said.

The district will be partnering with the Montclair Education Association on the needs of at-risk students, he added.

“This is difficult for many families. As a professional, and as a father, it is difficult for me also,” Ponds said.

Ponds urged families to continue practices such as wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. “I remain steadfast and determined to implement the hybrid model as soon as it is safe to do so.”

At least 500 of New Jersey’s schools are on hybrid learning. But some districts, like Clifton, were forced to switch back to remote learning until later in the school year due to an increase in cases.