By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
bartesaghi@montclairlocal.news

Montclair public and private school students who travel for the holiday season could have to quarantine and forgo in-person classes when they return, under policies set at each school.

Montclair Public Schools

The Montclair Public School district, in a policy based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, says on its website that unvaccinated staff and students who travel will require 10 days of quarantine without testing, or seven days of quarantine if they test negative three to five days after travel.

Those who are vaccinated are not required to quarantine, but should still test three to five days after travel and monitor for symptoms, the site says.

Schools superintendent Jonathan Ponds, in a Dec. 17 community message, also said individuals who travel should get tested one to three days before their trips. 

The Road Forward,” the state’s guidance for schools during the coronavirus pandemic, defines domestic travel as travel lasting 24 hours or longer to states “other than those connected to New Jersey, such as Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware.”

Ponds had also said in an Oct. 21 notice that students will automatically be set up with virtual learning during quarantine periods. 

“We value you as a partner and ask that you provide your children’s teachers/principals your travel plans a week in advance which will assist us in preparing virtual learning upon your return, allowing us to best serve your children,” Ponds had said to families in the Oct. 21 message.

The district this week announced its first building closure related to COVID-19 for the school year. Montclair High School was holding only remote classes Wednesday and Thursday, as coronavirus cases surged in the township and well beyond. Younger grades were put on an abbreviated in-person schedule Wednesday, and had already been on an abbreviated schedule for Thursday heading into their winter break.

According to the district’s online COVID-19 Dashboard on the district website, as of Wednesday, Dec. 22, the district had had 160 student cases and 54 staff cases since the beginning of the school year. Those numbers were quickly growing. Eighty of the student cases and 31 of the staff cases had occurred in just the last week. The dashboard does not reflect cases detected outside of the school’s own testing.

St. Cassian School

At St. Cassian School, quarantine is required for unvaccinated students who travel beyond Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, according to an Oct. 30 letter sent to families. 

At the time, the school had said any absences incurred during travel or quarantine after a trip would be considered unexcused, and remote learning would not be offered. But Maria Margiotta, director of communications and public relations for The Archdiocese of Newark, told Montclair Local this week the school would offer an option of one week of remote instruction following its winter break.

The St. Cassian website’s COVID protocols page also says students who test positive for COVID-19 and need quarantine will be provided with remote instruction. 

“St. Cassian School is continuing to follow the most recent recommended quarantine timeframes for students and staff provided by the New Jersey Department of Health and the local health department,” Margiotta said.

Montclair Kimberley Academy

Montclair Kimberley Academy’s director of communications and marketing Kim Saunders told Montclair Local last month that the school was not enforcing any travel-related quarantines.

According to its website, MKA still asks families to follow the CDC recommendations for domestic travel and requirements for international travel. It links to a CDC site with guidance that advises wearing a mask in indoor transportation hubs, and getting tested before and after a trip if unvaccinated.

Additionally, if a student misses the school’s mandatory pooled testing due to travel, he or she must have an independent PCR test for COVID-19 and receive a negative result before returning, according to the MKA site.

Saunders told Montclair Local last month that remote learning is not provided to students who quarantine after travel, as such quarantines aren’t currently mandatory under state or other regulations. MKA’s site continues to reflect that policy, and additionally says students home sick for other reasons won’t receive remote instruction. But students will be “supported with age-appropriate assignments and communication with their teachers,” Saunders said last month.

She also said absences during post-travel quarantines are marked as “quarantine days” in a student’s attendance record. 

“Our community has demonstrated strong adherence to health and safety protocols, including voluntarily following CDC and state travel policies in regards to quarantines due to travel,” Saunders told Montclair Local at the time.

As of Wednesday Dec. 22, MKA had seen 12 positive cases identified during pooled testing since the beginning of the school year, according to data on the school’s website. Six of those were since the start of November.

Lacordaire Academy

Head of School for Lacordaire Academy Megan Mannato told Montclair Local last month that the school will work with families during post-travel quarantines to ensure students don’t miss out on course work. She said students who choose to quarantine will be marked as in attendance. 

“Whether we do remote, whether we send work home, it varies depending on the grade. But we will absolutely work with them,” Mannato told Montclair Local.

Montclair Local attempted to contact Lacordaire Academy this week for updated information, but the school was already closed for its winter break.

Immaculate Conception High School

Immaculate Conception High School’s Principal Michele Neves told Montclair Local last month that the school was still finalizing its travel policy at the time. A calls to the school Wednesday seeking an update was unanswered, and on Thursday the school had started its winter break.

— Includes previous reporting by Talia Wiener