Montclair schools end daytime tours, prompting parent criticism
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL
By ERIN ROLL
Citing safety concerns, the Montclair School District has ended its daytime tours for families of students entering elementary and middle schools scheduled every year in March.
This year, the district will hold the tours in the evening hours only. The long-standing tradition gives families a chance to visit in order to choose which school they would like their child to attend.
Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak and school principals had a series of discussions about the tour schedule, deciding that for this year the district would not offer daytime tours due to safety reasons as the current students are in the classrooms at the time of the daytime tours, said Board of Education President Laura Hertzog.
When asked if the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida had been a factor in the decision, Hertzog said school tour schedule discussions had been ongoing for a number of years.
“I think there were a number of things going into this,” Hertzog said.
A number of parents took to social media on Thursday to criticize the district for making the decision.
Hertzog said parents are on both sides of the issue.
“There are parents who want the daytime tours to continue and those who feel that the daytime tours are a security risk. And I respect that,” she said.
Further discussion on the school tours would likely come up during the BOE meeting scheduled for Monday, March 5, said Hertzog.
Parent Colleen Daly Martinez agreed this year wasn’t the first time the daytime tours were questioned. The district attempted to cancel the daytime tours about a year ago, she said, but parent outcry prompted the district to reinstate the tours. She questioned the district’s explanation for ending the day tours, however.
“How come they voted to keep schools open on Election Day if they’re really concerned about the safety of our schools?” she added.
Taking away one of the tour options was potentially damaging to Montclair’s magnet school system, she contended.
“The magnet schools are what really bring people to Montclair,” Martinez said.
The best way for families to really get a sense of the schools is to see them during the daytime while classes were in session. However, she said that still having the nighttime tours, along with the “virtual” tour on the district website, helped.
Martinez said that she hoped someone would start a petition encouraging the district to rethink the idea. She added that for parents, having to advocate for certain issues in the schools over and over again was becoming a source of frustration.
“It’s like, did you not learn from last year that this is important to us?” she said.
A complete schedule of the school tours is available for viewing on the district website.
The elementary school tours will take place from March 5-15, with each school holding tours on a different evenings, and the middle school tours taking place from March 19-23. There will be two time slots for each tour: 6 to 7 p.m. and 7 to 8:15 p.m.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the purpose of the registration links on the district website. Parents may find information on registering a child for school on the same page as the tour schedule.