Montclair High School closes additional staircases, classrooms during repairs
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair High School’s staircase problems continued Friday, even after the school resumed normal operating hours following the Sept. 7 staircase collapse.
The school opted to close all four staircases in the original section of the main high school buildingmat the request of Superintendent Kendra Johnson. As a result, the third floor and part of the second floor had to be closed off on Friday, meaning that a total of 31 classrooms were inaccessible.
The district sent a letter to parents on Saturday addressing some of the questions concerning the staircases.
The school held two emergency drills on Friday to make sure students and staff were familiar with how to exit the building with several of the staircases closed off. The first drill did not go smoothly, the letter stated, but the second one did. The district is also working with the Montclair Fire Department on emergency procedures, the letter stated.
Several parents posted on social media asking if the staircases had received inspections. In response, “An evaluation of staircases is not part of the facilities checklist, nor are building structural analyses completed as a normal part of any school district’s annual facilities or maintenance checks,” the letter stated. “Given what transpired on Sept. 7, the superintendent requested a structural analysis of each staircase at Montclair High School, a structural analysis of the high school and a structural analysis of all schools. This work is not typical work.”
The staircase in question had received repairs in the winter of 2016, the letter stated, but the current BOE and administration were not aware of this. “However, it was determined at the time that the compromised staircase would be sufficient if repaired. The stairs were repaired.”
No one was injured when the staircase partially collapsed on Sept. 7. Photos circulated on social media showed a staircase with six caved-in steps.
The school was closed on Sept. 11 and 12, and reopened on Sept. 13 on a delayed schedule.
The auditorium and the Little Theater are to be used as classroom space on Monday, and students and parents were advised to check the district’s Genesis system for further instructions before the start of school this week. The district has yet to make a decision on whether temporary classrooms, such as modulars or portables, will be required.
The district’s engineer and architects are expected to deliver a report on the staircases during the Montclair Board of Education’s next meeting on Monday.