MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The South Orange-Maplewood School District plans to begin hybrid in-person instruction for students in PreK-2 and 6th grade by November 12. More than 800 people tuned into Monday night’s Board of Education meeting to learn more about the district’s plan; the Webex platform was at capacity and even more residents watched online or on their local cable access tv channel.

Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor said that under the current plan Phase 3 would have PreK-2, grade 6, English Language Learners and Special Education students returning for in-person learning beginning Nov. 12. The hybrid schedule would run on an AA/BB schedule with 2 days in-person and 3 days virtual instruction. Phase 4 would begin after Thanksgiving break until Dec. 23 and would bring back all remaining elementary and middle schoolers on the same AA/BB schedule.

Columbia High School students would not be returning for the hybrid in-person model until Jan. 4. Throughout these phases the district will continue to provide all-virtual instruction for families who make that decision.

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“Many steps have been taken to upgrade our buildings to make sure that our buildings are able to keep our students and staff healthy and safe,” said Taylor about the work that has been going on behind the scenes to make re-entry a reality.

In every classroom univent and air conditioner the district installed a HEPA filter with the MERV rating of 16. In the rooftop HVAC units the HEPA filters installed had a MERV rating of 18. SOMSD also purchased PPE for nursing staff, custodial staff, teachers and students. Students and teachers will all have access to disposable and cloth reusable face masks, though Dr. Taylor did recommend that students bring their own mask they are comfortable in. Teachers will also be given plastic face shields.

Custodial staff will have contact-less thermometers and EPA approved disinfectant in addition to their PPE. Nursing staff will have N95 masks, face shields, contact-less thermometers, no-touch trash bins and disposable masks, gloves and gowns in addition to their PPE.

Administrative offices, common areas, bathrooms and the nurse’s office also have plexiglass barriers. The district will also be using hydroxyl air purifiers in rooms that are unoccupied to kill viruses and bacteria. Signs have been placed throughout the school buildings reminding students to keep distant, wash hands, and wear their mask. 

“We used the floor tiles to make sure that we’re measuring six-feet in every direction of our desks in our classrooms,” said Taylor.

Carpeting has also been removed from hallways in the necessary buildings in keeping with CDC recommendation for soft and porous materials in high traffic areas. In the month of October both South Orange and Maplewood have seen 11 new cases of COVID-19.

The district will be holding two town halls next week for families to get more detailed information on the re-entry plan before the parent survey deadline on October 28. The October 26 town hall is for grades PreK-8, the Oct. 27 town hall is for Columbia High School.

For the Oct 26 PreK-8 Return to School Town Hall:


Event number: 173 376 2021 | Event password: RTS2021

Dial In: 408-418-9388 | Event password: 7872021


For the Oct 27 Columbia High School Return to School Town Hall

WebEx Link:

Event number: 173 464 6382

Telephone Number: 408-418-9388 |Event password: Information2020



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