staircase repair
Montclair Board of Education Sign.
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

he Montclair Board of Education gave the go-ahead to take out $2 million in bonds for replacing the staircases at Montclair High School Monday night.

Approved following a lengthy discussion at the board’s final meeting of the calendar year, the money will go toward the replacement of four staircases in the original section of the school.

The original amount listed in the bond request resolution — included in the board’s agenda packets that evening — was $1.5 million.

The next step is for the bond requests to be submitted to the Board of School Estimate for approval.

In addition to approving the bonds, the board has also authorized the business office to start soliciting bids for the removal of asbestos in the four stair towers.

Work on the asbestos removal is expected to start in May, near the end of the school year. Rebuilding the staircases can only begin once the asbestos removal is complete.

A staircase facing the high school’s Park Street entrance partially collapsed in September. The collapse resulted in all four staircases in that part of the building being closed, along with 32 classrooms on the second and third floors.

Since that time, the district has had to come up with alternative classroom space, including the rental of four classroom trailers now set up in the parking lot at the George Inness Annex.

Superintendent Kendra Johnson also announced that repairs are underway at Glenfield, after a damaged roof truss resulted in two classrooms being closed, and the district is soliciting designs from architects for the work.

Holiday celebrations

The approaching holiday break prompted a question from district parent Selma Avdicevic: How appropriate is it for schools to celebrate holidays, especially when students come from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds?

Avdicevic said she and her family identify as Muslim. The schools “go overboard” with the celebration of holidays like Christmas, she said, and the result is that many students, like her own children, end up feeling left out.

Avdicevic said that she wished the schools would be more cognizant of students who do not celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah.

Board member Jessica de Koninck said she understood Avdicevic’s concerns.

“It’s not my holiday season, it’s not a lot of people’s holiday seasons,” she said.

De Koninck herself did not like that Hanukkah often got grouped in with Thanksgiving. Her own preference, she said, was that there not be any school or town-sponsored holiday celebrations.

Board member Latifah Jannah said she’d had similar discussions with her own children when they were growing up.