I’m Deborah Villarreal-Hadley, President of the Montclair PTA Council whose mission it is to represent all of our schools as we advocate for the needs of all our students.
I’d like to start by thanking the board for the support of Dr. Ponds. My statement is on behalf of the PTAC Executive Board in response to the events of the last week. Obviously, this is a very difficult time and as a community we are not in agreement about how to proceed. This makes PTAC’s commitment to representing everyone in our schools difficult. But in writing this statement we made every effort to incorporate input from stakeholders from across the district.
We’ve all heard about the planning and work to support the hybrid model that has taken place over the last few months. We know that further work is planned and that conditions are not yet perfect. But we trust that Dr. Ponds and his team are abiding by state regulations that were instituted to keep our students, teachers and staff safe.
Not everyone will choose to send their students in person. But the majority have chosen hybrid because they trust their children will be safe and better off in school than at home full time. Some of our children are sliding backwards academically, or suffering socially, emotionally and psychologically. And we know there can be permanent consequences.
Other families need in-person instruction for their children who have learning difficulties or other special needs. There are things that simply cannot be replicated online, notwithstanding our teachers’ best efforts. And there are significant racial, social and economic equity factors at play in the ability to meet the needs of all children.
Taking all of this into account, along with our commitment to our students leads us to conclude that Montclair schools must open on January 25th and February 8th as planned, and join other school districts that have just reopened such as Teaneck, West Orange, South Orange and Maplewood.
We love our teachers and we are so grateful to them for the incredible efforts they have made. We know their job is harder than ever. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, remote instruction is not working for everyone. It is harming too many children and families, and we cannot ignore that. There are many teachers that feel the same.
Twice now, the MEA and teachers have announced last minute decisions not to return to work, creating unnecessary chaos, confusion and anxiety for both children and families in the district. We fear this may also damage relationships with the district administration as well as the relationships that families and children have with their teachers. It’s time for the MEA to work reasonably with the Superintendent and cooperate with the district’s plans for hybrid instruction. It’s time for Montclair schools to reopen.