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PHOTOS BY KATE ALBRIGHT

Parents wanting to reopen schools “sooner than later” took to the parks of Montclair Saturday, Dec. 12 to rally to open the school classrooms.

While some parents want learning to remain remote, a group of vocal parents want their children in the classroom.

“Almost 7,000 students in Montclair Public Schools have not been in the classroom since March 13. That is 270 days ago. Public health and scientists’ knowledge about COVID-19 has grown tremendously since March 2020. Fortunately, an increasing and overwhelming body of evidence now indicates schools can reopen their doors to students without undue risk to their own health or that of teachers and other school workers. This includes the experiences in other New Jersey school districts including Verona, Glen Ridge and Livingston here in Essex County as well as numerous schools in other New Jersey counties and national school districts such as New York City. Local and national private schools have also offered in-person learning successfully and safely since September.  Even in areas with higher rates of infection, such as much of Europe, the schools remain open,” the group said in a statement.

After putting off reopening dates twice, on Wednesday, Dec. 2, Superintendent Jonathan Ponds announced two anticipated start dates for hybrid instruction: Jan. 25 and Feb. 8.

Jan. 25 is when students in Pre-K through fifth grade and special needs students are expected to return, if health and safety conditions permit. Middle school and high school students are expected to return on Feb. 8.

“I know that we all want what’s best,” Ponds said.

The students will attend school for four hours a day, two days a week, and have virtual learning for the remainder of the week.

Ponds said the Jan. 25 return date was chosen to allow for a two-week period between the end of the holidays and the start of school, in case families needed to quarantine after traveling or spending time with relatives. He said the date was chosen after consultation with other school districts in the area.

“We all share the goal of keeping everyone involved safe from COVID-19, and we all want what’s best for our children. By adopting the best practices proven in other districts – including masks, social distancing, symptom screening – our schools can offer families the option to return to face-to-face learning for those who want and need it, and give our students a chance to begin regaining ground lost during this past year,” he said.

MontclairFail said they represent the “families, teachers, staff and taxpayers of the Montclair Public Schools (MPS) district who are focused on ensuring accountability and transparency for the MPS Board and superintendent and that all who want an option for in-person learning are given a voice and a choice.”