Montclair school officials said Friday they’re still on track to open schools to students on time Sept. 9, even after Ida’s fierce downpours damaged multiple buildings.
By late Friday, all water had been removed from three buildings inundated with floods during Wednesday’s storms — Montclair High School, Bradford Elementary School and Hillside Elementary School — the district said in a community announcement from schools superintendent Jonathan Ponds.
Electrical panels were removed and switches were drying out at Bradford, where the boiler room had flooded. PSE&G was set to inspect the equipment Tuesday. Cleaning and disinfecting were ongoing.
Cleaning and disinfecting continued as well at Hillside, where the ground floor had been flooded, and Montclair High School, where both the basement and “the pit,” the storage area in the high school auditorium, flooded. Construction damage was being assessed and repaired, and debris was still being discarded.
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A tree that had fallen on Edgemont Montessori School had been removed, and a scissor lift was being transported to the school so a structural engineer could review the damage Tuesday. The rest of the building was safe to be occupied, Ponds said.
And a replacement for a fire alarm panel damaged by a leak at the school’s Developmental Learning Center would be installed on Tuesday, he said.
The superintendent said the progress “would not be possible without the extraordinary efforts of our Buildings and Grounds Department and the support of Montclair’s emergency team, Mayor Sean Spiller, Town Manager Timothy Stafford, Fire Chief John Herrmann and Deputy Fire Chief Brian Wilde, Police Chief Todd Conforti and Deputy Police Chief Wil Young, and the Township Community Services Department.”
He said heading into Labor Day weekend, he could “feel the excitement brewing” for the return to school. Montclair will be holding five-day, all-in-person instruction for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. After multiple delays, students returned for a hybrid learning schedule last school year, but some students couldn’t return to in-person classes until the final weeks of the school year.
The whole Montclair High School basement flooded Wednesday night, head custodian Brian Bunk said Thursday, while the Montclair Fire Department was pumping out water. He said the flooding was the “worst I’ve seen in 30 years.”
Professional development was canceled for Montclair public school teachers Thursday as the district worked to assess the building damage, according to Montclair Education Association president Cathy Kondreck. Teachers had returned Wednesday to begin preparing for students’ first day on Sept. 9.
Additionally, Montclair Kimberley Academy suffered flooding at its Upper School campus, and the administration was working to resolve the issue, Head of School Nigel D. Furlonge said Thursday. Immaculate Conception High School suffered no serious damage in the storm, its principal said.
— Louis C. Hochman, with previous reporting by Talia Wiener and Kate Albright