Despite meeting requirements set by the Public Education Department for re-entry Friday Sept. 4—just before the Labor Day weekend—by Sunday those requirements had changed, and MESD was no longer able to bring kids back to school in person.

“The PED sent us a memo [Sept. 3] at 9:15 pm letting us know the latest requirements for reentry based on the medical team’s criteria,” said superintendent Teresa Salazar in an update to families. “My team had a call with PED at 1:30 pm Friday to confirm we met all of the requirements. MESD needed clarification on a couple of the items and finally, got a call back about 3:30 pm that we were good to go. This morning, Sunday, at 11:30 am a representative from the PED called to let us know that the medical team had raised the filtering level for our HVAC from MERV 8, which we currently have to MERV 9 or higher until we can get the back-ordered MERV 13 filters in.”

Deborah Martinez, media relations coordinator for PED, said it was “unfortunate” that MESD couldn’t re-open just yet, but said the pandemic requires everyone to “act on a dime,” and changes are made quickly.

“[PED is] trying to respond to the CDC and the medical advisory team as to these duct filter types that they recommend for the best, safest, environments, and because schools are about to open, they had to issue [the new requirements] right away,” she said. “That’s why it was so late over the weekend.”

Martinez said Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart is working with leadership in the state to get something in writing so that everyone is on the right page to make sure the medical advisor’s guidance schools have to follow is met, and to help the districts meet the standard to re-open.

Salazar said the Moriarty-Edgewood School District has received a handful of emails from upset parents because of this change, but most were supportive.

“MESD has worked very hard over the last six months to make sure we have communicated clearly and timely with families to avoid issues like this, but changes that have come from the PED via the medical team over the last week have caused hardships for everyone,” she said.

Salazar said that HVAC company the district uses will have MERV 11 filters by the end of the week and they will be installed soon after that.

“I think the decision was just in the best interest of the children in the communities that without that specific kind of filter it wasn’t safe for them to get back into class,” Martinez said.