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No Schools, Day Three


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Walking and driving to school remains hazardous: A downed wire roared back to life along Newman Avenue last evening.

It’s hard to imagine, even for those of us who have spent many winters in Verona, that the public school system would have used up all its planned snow days before winter ever began. But today, November 2, marks the third day that schools have been closed by a snow storm that has knocked the town for a loop.

At last night’s meeting, the Board of Education defended its decision, which was based on both conditions at the schools and public safety issues around Verona. BOE President John Quattrocchi said that when the board called for the continued closure, the elementary school buildings had had their power restored, but their phone and fire alarm systems were not working and school personnel had not verified that the boilers were operating properly. H.B. Whitehorne had power back in only half the building and Verona High School had none. The power problems at VHS were the key factor in the phone trouble, since Verona’s schools use an Internet-based phone system that is routed largely through VHS. The BOE has managed to update the school Web site, thanks to VHS math and science teacher Rich Wertz, who doubles as the district’s technology supervisor. “He has been handling the Web and phone updates for the BOE despite having no power at his house,” Quattrocchi noted.

The decision to close for a third day was clearly frustrating for the board. “We have to get out of disaster mode and back in curriculum mode”, Quattrocchi said.

Beyond the situation in the school buildings themselves, Verona’s Office of Emergency Management had made it clear that it could be difficult even getting kids to school. There are still broken branches hanging over many sidewalks and streets, and damaged wires pose a continued threat–a fact emphasized by a rather spectacular explosion of a wire on lower Newman Avenue at dinner time last night that sent two Verona Fire Department trucks to the scene. Verona’s school facilities director, Paul McDevitt, has participated in every OEM meeting.

“Our focus is not to open the school(s) for the sake of being open,” Quattrocchi said by e-mail earlier in the day. “We need to conduct classes and cover the curriculum at the pace that’s proper and effective.”

Verona has elected to treat all of its schools as a block, but that is not the case in every district around here. In the South Orange-Maplewood School District, Superintendent Brian Osbourne asked children to return to school today even though the district could not open its South Mountain Annex and Marshall elementary schools. In Caldwell, the elementary schools are open but the high school is not. In Bloomfield, schools are back except for the Demarest and Franklin elementary schools.

What’s going to happen next in Verona–including whether schools will open Thursday–is anybody’s guess at this point. The three-day gap has cut into results and time teachers need for first marking period grades, although Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett was hopeful that the electronic grading technology that Verona implemented at the middle school and high school at the start of the year would help move things along. But how Verona will account for the days closed and fortify itself for our actual winter depends on decisions that have to come from Trenton. “We don’t know whether the state will change some of the mandated testing days,” Jewett said.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


  1. I think it would be the wrong decision to open up a school just because they have power until all schools are operational and the town is safe to get around in. Do you really want your child walking to and from school with the condition that the streets are in? The BOE is handling this situation properly and are doing the best they can.

  2. Not blaming anyone, but this has been so frustrating. 3 snow days gone! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has spring break plans that cannot be changed. (And I’m not naive enough to think that we won’t need any more snow days throughout the school year). All I have to say is UGHHHHHHHH!!!

  3. maybe they can just turn some of those fruitless, silly, ridiculous, wasted half-days at the end of the school year and make them full-days…..

    at least they made the calls to cancel school the day before….as opposed to a 0500 phone call during a blizzard when we all knew school would be closed the next day


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