I didn’t get to speak at the May 5 Montclair Board of Education meeting, but still wanted to say something. I hope this finds its way to our community leaders. So here it is:

Every morning I wake up and I shake my head, I take a deep breath, and hold back the tears.   The reason: I know it is time to wake my children (one in middle school and one in elementary school) for remote learning. While my son puts on a strong face — because that is what boys are supposed to do, right? — I see the pain behind his eyes, the sadness of isolation from his friends and the lack of an ability to express himself in person. That gleam in his eyes, that spark that makes him so unique and so special is not something that can be expressed in remote learning. But he gets up and gets dressed for remote learning because he is strong. 

Then there is my daughter, born a free spirit, a rebel to every cause. Before the hybrid schedule started for her, I would wake her up and the anger and pent up emotions were palpable — just too much for her to keep in. But we would work to be calm and get ready for remote learning, because she is also strong. Our remote learning day would be interlaced with periods of crying, hiding under the table, and more crying, and in the background a voice coming from the computer telling my daughter to get back in front of the screen. My wife and I would do our best to console our daughter each day and coax her back in front of the screen because she has to learn, right? Then hybrid learning was approved; someone at the board meeting characterized it as “oxygen.” That is exactly right. Our children are suffocating, struggling to breath. The return to school buildings is the oxygen our children need, but more than that it is the teachers who give our children the oxygen to not just live but thrive.  

This has been a difficult time for all. My hope, my wish, if I can have one, is that we can come together united as one family of the Montclair community all with the same goal: to provide for the emotional and educational wellbeing of our children.

Jonathan Mellone


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