Montclair Education Association
For Immediate Release
RE: The unsafe re-entry of special education students and staff
Montclair, NJ; On October 5, 2020, the district notified the Montclair Education Association that the district intended to bring staff members and students of the Applied Behavior Analysis program back for in-person learning at the Bullock School on October 12, running contrary to the expected November return date that was announced in August. Despite repeated requests for more information, the superintendent and board of education failed to respond. The Association requested specifically what precautions have been made regarding health and safety. Instead, the district issued a revised re-entry plan, which continued to be vague about certain procedures and requirements. When pressed for more clarity, the Association’s requests were met with silence.
The Applied Behavior Analysis program provides services to students identified as special education with the most accommodations needed. These students often have severe medical constraints, many are non-verbal, and may be unable to wear masks or other personal protective equipment. The district’s re-entry plan provides students with a specific waiver from the district’s medical team, however the evaluations of whether a student could or could not wear a mask were made by teaching staff.
“What is most alarming, is the decision of the district to begin an in-person instruction re-entry plan with our most vulnerable student population without sufficient planning, training of staff in Covid-19 protocols, or communication,” said Petal Robertson, Montclair Education Association President. “The MEA has presented our concerns to the administration several times and still we have received nothing. Our requests to have our medically fragile and special needs students reevaluated for their IEPs and 504 plans, to accommodate these changes has gone unanswered. Our requests for the safety documentation of the very buildings the Superintendent deemed the ventilation to be inadequate, has gone unanswered. Our request to have the questions and concerns of staff addressed, has gone unanswered.”
Robertson went on to say, “We are not just concerned for our ABA students and teachers but the entire Montclair school district population. School reopening during a pandemic should be done in a series of safe, thoughtful, and collaborative steps that are explicitly communicated to those that are meant to undertake them. It is irresponsible to simply ask parents if they would like to send their child back to return for in-person instruction without being honest and transparent regarding the safety of the school buildings and the effectiveness of the academic plans.”
At this point, the members of the ABA staff, with the full support of the Montclair Education Association, have continued remote instruction with their students.