MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Students in Montclair, New Jersey were supposed to head back into their classrooms Monday for the first time since March.

But it didn’t happen, despite a plan announced by the superintendent.

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Parents and kids carried signs reading, “Get our kids back in school” as they protested outside The Edgemont School, demanding the district reopen schools, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.

“Today is the 318th day that our children have not been in school. I’m advocating for our children who are desperate to go back to school,” said Deirdre Carlough.

“I just want them to have a chance,” said Kara Mohren. “My daughter says she wants to see a chalkboard.”

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Many parents say virtual learning for nearly 10 months is taking a toll on their children.

“He can’t get the lesson. He doesn’t see his friends, he doesn’t get help he needs when he has a question. It’s just not working,” said Kristin Kenne.

Superintendent Dr. Johnathan Ponds would not go on camera, but said he was unable to staff the schools after teachers cited safety concerns and refused to go back inside.

Many of the buildings are more than 100 years old with old ventilation systems.


Meanwhile, The Montclair Education Association doesn’t think schools should reopen while COVID cases continue to escalate.

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“The only solution the school has offered for ventilation is to have all of the windows open in 30 degree weather, and students and teachers to wear coats, hats, scarves and gloves throughout the process,” said Petal Robertson of the Montclair Education Association.

“If teachers were prioritized for the vaccine, would that make you feel more comfortable going back in?” Baker asked.

“Absolutely,” Robertson said. “And I think that’s an area in which both the school district and the Education Association could work together. And we could collaboratively push to have our teachers prioritized for the vaccination.”

Justin Klabin, another parent and an environmental management expert, said he’s been calling on the district to upgrade old buildings long before the pandemic.

He proposes returning to in-person classes in April.

“You can open every window, and every school. The ventilation becomes a non-issue at that point,” Klabin said.


Teachers would hopefully be vaccinated by then, too. That’s something educators across New Jersey have been calling for.

They say they’re putting themselves at higher risk and are more likely to catch COVID as adults while mixing with kids who may be around asymptomatic family members.

The teachers union and superintendent met virtually with a mediator over the weekend. They say discussions will continue this week, but so far there is no resolution.

CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.

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CBSNewYork Team