Montclair Schools Acing Tremendous Task Of Reopening: Official

MONTCLAIR, NJ — Reopening Montclair’s public schools amid the coronavirus crisis hasn’t been an easy task. In fact, it’s been “tremendous.” But according to Superintendent Jonathan Ponds, the district’s teachers and staff members have been acing the test so far.

Last week, Montclair kicked off one of the most unique and challenging school years in its history, going all-remote due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead of lining up to enter classrooms, students found themselves logging on to computers at home.

Ponds reported that the historic effort is going well so far.

“Yesterday we virtually greeted nearly 6,500 students on opening day for the new school year,” he wrote Friday. “It may have looked different than years past, but it didn’t take away from the smiles and eagerness of the children who were ready to ‘meet’ their teachers and classmates.

Students and teachers “genuinely seemed happy” on their first day of all-online classes, Ponds remarked.

“At least they didn’t have to bring umbrellas and boots on their first day as it was pouring in the morning,” he joked.

Administrators shared some first-day-of-school photos from local parents on the district website, which can be seen here.

Ponds also shared some comments received from local parents. They included:

  • “As a quick note, both of my kids’ classes are going really well this morning at MHS! Thanks to everyone for all of their extraordinary work to pull this school year off.”

  • “We had a great introduction to Mrs. McKeon today! My son asked her if the class could dissect a frog, so she may have a challenging year.”

  • “Huge thank you for an amazing start to 5th grade. We so appreciate how organized and well thought out these first two days went. The sound of … giggling from his laptop while in class has made my day and warmed my heart.”

“Our emphasis in these opening days was on providing live instruction, and this will continue during the entire remote period,” Ponds wrote.

He added:

“Our teachers and administrators had a tremendous task to make this happen and they worked hard during professional development to learn new platforms and create lessons with fidelity that would engage our students. I appreciate everyone’s commitment to making this experience fruitful. And while we still have to adjust and learn, each day will bring improvement. Additionally, I want to thank the parent community for your feedback and questions which were invaluable in creating our new pathways for learning.”


Ponds offered several additional updates on the reopening process Friday.

Back-to-School Nights – “Remember to sign in to Back-to-School Nights. Teachers will be sharing links for the events. They begin next week with Buzz Aldrin taking the first spot on September 15 and run through October 6. Principals have recorded an opening message for you which will be followed by live zoom sessions with your children’s teachers.”

Extracurricular Clubs and Activities – “Clubs and activity advisors have been approved at the high school and middle school level. Advisors will be conducting online activities so that students stay connected with their peers and special interests.”

Facilities – “Our consultants are continuing with their assessment of the ventilation systems throughout the district. District staff have begun repairing/replacing systems based upon the recommendations of our consultant.

Screen Time – “We received feedback regarding remote instruction and the increased amount of screen time for our youngest learners. Our building principals will be working with our teachers to adjust screen time to allow for synchronous and asynchronous learning. We hear you, and we thank you for the feedback.”

Technology – “Seesaw and Zoom platforms have been launched and used extensively during our first two days. We will provide ongoing professional development in all platforms as our teachers become well versed in their usage. The Technology Department is in the process of preparing additional devices for those families who have contacted their children’s schools. Please remember to use the Technology Hotline at 301-259-1510 during the hours of 8 AM to 3 PM if you have any technology related questions.”

Food Service – “Montclair Public Schools will be participating in the USDA Child Nutrition Program, providing nutritionally balanced, free lunches to our students through December 2020. Beginning September 14, meals will be available for pickup Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. See flyer for details and pickup locations.

High School Counselors – “All counselors have open office hours throughout the day. Links for sign ups have been sent to students and can be provided again, so please remind your children that this service is available to them. The counselors are eager to get to know your children and support them as they navigate the high school.”

Athletics – “Pre-season sports begin on Monday, September 14, for Girls Tennis, Field Hockey, Boys and Girls Soccer, Cheerleading, and Cross Country. Our coaches have done a great job with being flexible and communicating with their students and families about the fall 2020 season. They have strictly adhered to all health and safety protocols. Our fall season opens up on Thursday, October 1 with Boys Soccer playing at MKA and Girls Tennis playing at Verona High School. Field Hockey will host Millburn for their season opener on Friday, October 2 and Football will travel to Bloomfield. Cross Country and Girls Soccer will open their seasons on Saturday, October 3. The Mountie Athletic Department and our athletes and coaches are excited to represent our community this fall. We want to give a special shout out to the Girls Lacrosse team to thank them for their donation which will be used to purchase a Chromebook for one of our families.”

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This article originally appeared on the Montclair Patch

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