‘Worst I’ve seen in 30 years’ — serious flooding at Montclair schools
By TALIA WIENER and KATE ALBRIGHT
Update: 3:30 p.m.: This story has been edited to reflect more information about damage to Montclair Schools.
Update, 7:20 p.m.: Montclair school officials say they're working "relentlessly" to open on Sept. 9 as planned.
Multiple Montclair schools, both private and public, are facing significant facility damage after Wednesday night's flooding from Ida.
Montclair High School, Hillside Elementary School and Bradford Elementary School all experienced several feet of flooding, Montclair Fire Department Deputy Chief Robert Duncan said. Fire Department operations to pump out the floodwaters were ongoing mid-Thursday afternoon.
A tree had fallen on Edgemont Montessori School as well, Mayor Sean Spiller said.
The whole Montclair High School basement flooded Wednesday night, head custodian Brian Bunk said. The Montclair Fire Department was on site Thursday pumping out water.
"Worst I've seen in 30 years," Bunk said.
In "the pit," the storage area in the high school auditorium, the flooding was 3 feet high, Bunk said. There were also 4 to 5 inches of water in the rest of the building, he said.
Montclair Fire Department Capt. Steve Marshalleck and his crew worked Thursday on pumping the water out of Hillside, but Marshalleck said he was too busy to comment at the time.
Spiller said he'd been in touch over the day with Schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds. Early in the day, they'd discussed the concern that if the floods pushed up tiles in Montclair's aging school buildings, they could expose asbestos, he said. Spiller said he'd been in touch with Gov. Phil Murphy's office as well as U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a Montclair resident who represents the 11th District, in case further assistance for remediation. Students were expected to return to school buildings one week later, on Sept. 9.
But Spiller said Thursday afternoon that as of the last time he spoke to Ponds, the superintendent seemed optimistic that wouldn't be the case. Ponds later released an update to the community saying district officials were working "relentlessly" to get the buildings ready for the Sept. 9 opening; his message didn't mention any damage to tiles.
Montclair Education Association President Cathy Kondreck said, "I have not received any direct information from administration about the state of the buildings. I have heard from some people who have been in the buildings, and it does seem like there is definitely damage in some of the buildings, but not all of the buildings and not throughout all of the buildings."
Kondreck said Thursday she did not have enough information about the building damage to speak to its effect on the upcoming school year.
Professional development was canceled for Montclair public school teachers Thursday as the district worked to assess the building damage. Teachers returned just yesterday to begin preparing for students' first day on Sept. 9.
The district announced Friday would be a remote day for professional development. Teachers may access their classrooms if given permission by their school administrators, Kondreck said. All professional development was set to be remote before the 2021-2022 school year, but teachers were allowed to work from inside their classrooms, she said.
Montclair Kimberley Academy had flooding at the Upper School campus, and the administration was working to resolve the issue, Head of School Nigel D. Furlonge said Thursday.
"We are sensitive to the impact this storm has had on MKA families and colleagues as well as on our neighbors and the community of Montclair," Furlonge said. "While we continue to prepare for the start of school next week, we extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who offered their assistance to those in need during this unprecedented weather event."
Phones at Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair went unanswered Thursday morning and early afternoon.