BY ANDREW GARDA
garda@montclairlocal.news

Amid the continued rise in coronavirus cases in New Jersey, the boys and girls basketball teams from Montclair High School have cancelled games in winter tournaments this week.

The boys team, which had been scheduled to play in a tournament in Paterson on Monday, Dec. 27 and Tuesday, Dec. 28, has withdrawn due to positive COVID-19 tests among those attached to the program, head coach Gary Wallace told Montclair Local.

The team is currently in quarantine and will remain there until MHS athletics director Patrick Scarpello and the district clear them to practice.

The team was also scheduled for a regular season game at home against West Orange High School on Thursday, Dec. 30, but that also has been cancelled.

Prior to the winter break, West Orange Public Schools district had moved to a hybrid learning schedule, with cohorts alternating between remote and in-person classes. Montclair High School went remote during the last few days of school before the break but schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds has said students will return to in-person learning when it's over.

Some other districts, such as East Orange, have already planned to return to school remotely after the break.

The recent coronavirus surge hasn't been easier on the girls team, which went into quarantine prior to winter break, and according to the MHS athletics schedule, has backed out of the Keith Benovengo Memorial Tournament in Scotch Plains-Fanwood.

Scarpello told Montclair Local Wednesday morning he was working to get schedules and other arrangements updated.

"There were many cancellations over the winter break for our athletic teams," he said by email. "Some were due to us having positive cases and others were due to the opposition having positive cases. We are preparing to get students back safely to resume our seasons after the New Year."

Along with both basketball teams, the wrestling program shut down prior to winter break due to positive COVID-19 tests. Scarpello's message didn't specify whether teams beyond the wrestling and basketball teams had been affected; Montclair Local has sent back another message seeking clarification.

How Montclair's district ultimately handles the return to school after break is likely to impact how its athletic teams return to play in the coming weeks.

Currently, the athletic department is requiring teams to follow all New Jersey and NJSIAA guidelines regarding COVID-19 protocols.

Meanwhile, Montclair Kimberley Academy's boys team is still scheduled to participate in the Prep Holiday Tournament At Oratory in Summit, with a game at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 28, and with either a consolation game or the finals Wednesday, Dec. 29. The girls team has no games scheduled.

Immaculate Conception High School's girls team has no games scheduled this week, after going 2-0 with wins over West Essex and Notre Dame (of Connecticut) last week. The boys were scheduled to play in the Paterson Charter School Holiday Classic on Monday, Dec. 27, but there were no results listed from the game and no other game is listed until Jan. 2, when they meet Seton Hall Prep at home at 12:30 p.m.

Coronavirus cases have been surging in Montclair and the region over the last few weeks. As of Tuesday morning, the Montclair Public Schools district's online tracker had registered student 202 cases this academic year — 114 alone during the week that ended Friday, Dec. 23. That's despite the fact that the tracker only registers cases discovered through the school's own testing, and school was off on that Friday for winter break.

There had been 60 staff cases registered to date, 37 in the week ending Friday, Dec. 23.

The cases are found through the school's voluntary, opt-in pooled testing program.