Several changes made to Montclair school district calendar since first approval
Since first approving the 2022-23 school year calendar in May 2021, the Montclair Board of Education has made several revisions — changing the start and end dates for the school year, moving spring break and repeatedly adjusting when the district will celebrate certain holidays.
Parents have voiced frustration over the changes at board meetings in the past few months, and at the July 25 board meeting, two board members acknowledged a lack of communication about the revisions.
The board approved a first reading of the 2022-23 calendar at its meeting on May 17, 2021. The first day of school was marked as Sept. 6, 2022, a Tuesday.
On June 21, 2021, the board again approved a first reading of the calendar, with changes from the previous version. The board changed the first day of school to Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, added a districtwide holiday for Eid al-Fitr, which will begin at sundown on Friday, April 21, 2023, marked the Friday before Memorial Day, May 26, 2023, as a district holiday, and moved the last two abbreviated days of school from June 21 and 22, 2023, to June 26 and 27, 2023.
On July 26, 2021, the board approved a second reading of the 2022-23 calendar, making no changes from the June 21, 2021 version.
On Feb. 23, 2022, the board approved one calendar revision, moving the district’s celebration of Juneteenth from Monday, June 19, 2023, to Friday, June 16, 2023.
On March 21, 2022, the board approved another set of revisions. The two days off during the New Jersey Education Association conference were moved from Nov. 3 and 4, 2022, to Nov. 10 and 11, 2022. And a day scheduled for curriculum meetings was moved from March 16 to March 23, 2022, to accommodate state testing, according to the resolution.
Three and a half months earlier, in its Dec. 7, 2021 school board notes report, the New Jersey School Boards Association shared a reminder that the statewide teachers union conference would be Nov. 10 and 11, 2022.
“The NJEA issued the reminder because some schools are under the mistaken impression that the convention will be earlier in November,” the report says. “However, the NJEA never holds its convention prior to Election Day, which is Nov. 8.”
On July 13, 2022, the board again approved changes to the calendar. The board added October 24, 2022, as a district holiday to celebrate Diwali. Spring break was moved earlier, to April 3 to 6, 2023, from April 10 to 14, 2023. Professional development days were added on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022 — previously marked as no school for students and staff — and on June 6, 2023, the Primary Election Day. Juneteenth was moved back to June 19.
At the meeting held July 13, three additional calendar revisions were made, although they were not noted in the list of revisions on the calendar document posted to the district website.
The board reinstated the Friday before Memorial Day as a normal school day.
The first day of school was changed, moved back to Sept. 6 from Sept. 7, 2022, and the last day of school for the 2022-23 school year was moved from June 27 to June 22, 2023. An abbreviated day for students previously set for the second-to-last day of school was eliminated.
At the board’s July 25 meeting, board members Crystal Hopkins and Monk Inyang apologized for not notifying the community about the change to the first day. Hopkins and Inyang are members of the board’s Culture and Climate Committee, along with board member Kathryn Weller-Demming, who was not present at the July 25 meeting.
“We did miss the mark on sending out the calendar and making that communication to the community,” Hopkins said, “but I don’t believe the first day of school was adjusted in any way.”
The adjustments will benefit students and faculty, she said.
“I do agree that the sending out of the communication is a miss, is something that we can improve upon,” Inyang said at the July 25 meeting.
The changes were a response to concerns of the community, he said.
But staff members made plans for days that were marked as closed on the original
board-approved calendar, Cathy Kondreck, Montclair Education Association president, said at the July 25 meeting.
“To amend an already approved calendar while on summer break with no communication, no all-staff or parent email, no robocall and no announcement is unexpected to say the least,” Kondreck said. “To change the dates now with absolutely no explanation or fair warning is a disservice to the staff that you employ.”
Kondreck said she “sincerely hopes” that the central office will send a message to staff with an explanation and apology, she said. Kondreck has not yet returned an email sent to her union address Thursday asking if she or other staff members have received an apology.
At the July 25 board meeting, parent Zohar Rotem urged the board to reconsider the new start date for the 2022-23 school year.
Rotem, who said he was speaking on behalf of his wife, Aviva Arad, said his family learned about the change only “by chance,” since there was no official alert sent to parents. But they already had booked travel based on the previously published calendar, he said.
“Now our kids won’t be back in time and our son won’t be able to start at a new school on the right foot,” Rotem said. “We cannot rebook as there are no flights available.”
It’s good to be responsive to the community — changing the calendar to reflect the input of families and staff — but the timing of calendar changes “is truly inconsiderate,” Rotem said.
“You made a consequential decision at an incredibly late date that will have actual detrimental effects on our children,” he said.
And Rotem wasn’t the first parent to speak up at a board meeting with concern about the changes.
“I recognize that many of these changes, such as the one proposed today, are well meaning and seem appropriate, but some are not,” parent Eric Kim said at the board meeting on April 6. “Changing the calendar, particularly during the school year and especially with just a few days’ or weeks’ notice is incredibly disruptive to families.”
At that meeting, the board voted to approve a change of the 2021-22 school year calendar — moving the celebration of Eid al-Fitr to May 2 from May 3. Two months earlier, at its Feb. 23 meeting, the board approved changing the district’s celebration of Juneteenth to June 17 from June 20, 2022.
At a March 21 board meeting, Kim asked the board to rethink its decision to move the celebration of Juneteenth from June 19 to June 16, 2023. While in line with state practice — celebrating the holiday on the third Friday in June — neighboring school districts, the federal government and many employers recognize the holiday each year on June 19, or before or after if it falls on a weekend.
“I would urge the board to properly evaluate the district calendar, incorporating all the relevant considerations, including the needs of parents and caregivers, accommodating critical professional development, and how best to recognize holidays important to different parts of Montclair’s diverse community, including offering possible alternatives, such as excused absences or official district celebrations,” Kim said.
Revisions made at the July 13 meeting included moving the district's celebration of Juneteenth to June 19 from June 16, 2023.