northfield school opens

Students began class at Northfield Middle School on Tuesday after a week's delay.

Danny Drake

Students in Northfield and Somers Point finally began their school year after being delayed for more than a week due to mold problems.

At the Northfield Community School, there was rapturous reaction from parents, and a decidedly mixed reaction from their kids, as classes began Tuesday morning.

The building had been closed after mold was found in a closet Sept. 5, the day before the scheduled first day of school. More mold was later found throughout the building.

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Parents were notified Monday night by Superintendent Janice Fipp that classes would resume Tuesday, although the library will remain sealed off while testing continues.

“Let’s put it this way,” Fipp said as she welcomed students back. “One word? Grateful. I’m just so grateful that the mold issue has been remediated and that the building is safe for students and staff. And I’m grateful for all the support, direction and insight I was provided by so many.”

Fipp added that parents can attend the Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the school to ask questions and learn about the school’s revised schedule.

In Somers Point, the Dawes Avenue, New York Avenue and Jordan Road schools were closed after mold was initially found at the Jordan Road facility at the end of August, officials have said.

Parent Veronica Stillman-Fath said Tuesday the start of school went smoothly.

Her fourth-grader, Regan Stillman, had a normal first day at Jordan Road, except for activities being held indoors due to the weather.

As the director of children's ministry at Mission Point Church, Stillman-Fath also said she knew about the first- and second-graders from the Jordan Road School who will be at a temporary location for a few days.

"I was told everyone was learning and it all went well," she said.

There also was a fire drill during the day, which is normal, Stillman-Fath said.

"I am not angry. I am glad they found it (the mold) before school started and I feel secure that the school is doing everything possible to keep the staff and our children safe," she said.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Jordan Road School auditorium and discuss the calendar adjustment for the school year.

“Whether they take holidays away or have to have a few Saturdays in March or Februray” is not a concern for her, Stillman-Fath said.

In Northfield, parents appeared pleased with school beginning.

“Hallelujah!” said Karen Sweitzer. “I’m just happy it’s done and over with.”

“I’m not,” her 3-year-old son, Mickey, added.

“He’s in the Linwood nursery school,” she said. “Today, everybody’s at school. It’s such a magical day.”

Gwen Crozier-Carole, dropping off her three daughters, had much the same feeling.

“Fabulous!” she said. “Wonderful. Extending summer was nice. However, it’s nice that the children are back in school. They don’t much like doing homeschooling with mom. A little math, a little reading, Bible study. ... They’d rather be in school.”

Athan Rhoades, 8, was mostly happy — “I don’t have to be stuck in the house for so long,” he said — while Audrey Seals, 6, had a mature reaction to her less-than-formal first day of first grade.

“I’d rather have the week off,” she said, standing next to grandfather Jeff Seals. “I can’t believe there’s not going to be a ‘first day of school.’”

“Apparently, it’s not the same,” explained her brother Aidan, 12. He had his own issue with how they were given less than a day’s notice.

“It is kind of weird, how we got the call last night instead of having a day to get used to it,” he said.

Regarding the mold issue, Crozier-Carole said that “I really don’t know the politics of it. I wish I knew more, and possibly at the board meeting we’ll find out more. But there’s nothing we can do about it as parents.”

Eighth-grader Anthony Barretta, 13, had just one issue.

“They checked the night before school and they find mold?” he asked. “They should blame the school for not looking earlier.”

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