MAPLEWOOD, NJ — As some in-person classes restart on Monday, the number of rooms fit for use in hybrid learning across South Orange and Maplewood is in dispute. 

In response to the Feb. 3 article, “South Orange Maplewood District Sees 251 Rooms Across 10 Schools Deemed Unfit for Use,” the South Orange Maplewood School District has reached out to TAPinto SOMA to clarify the district's perspective on the inspections. 

The number of unfit rooms, 251, “didn't come from the district,” wrote Anide Eustache, communications director, in an email to reporter Madeline Thigpen. The teachers' union, South Orange Maplewood Education Association, “did do walkthroughs with their reps, in some instances [New Jersey Education Association] reps and the building principals were in attendance (in some cases with the school custodian). SOMEA provided a report and/or letter sharing the 251 rooms, however, the district was not in agreement.” 

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Eustache added that “after speaking to SOMEA a majority of the rooms, as we shared in our previous statements, are fit for use as per the NJ guidelines set for the Restart & Recovery Road Back plan. Our building administrators have notified teachers/parents of any classroom reassignments or virtual assignments as necessary.  

One of the most widely used reason for labeling a room unfit was problems with ventilation. Eustache said the district is dealing with the issue. “We also recognize that HVAC units can malfunction even with proper maintenance, so we’ve encouraged our teachers to bring any room issue to their building administrator’s attention so that a collaborative solution can be reached.  We are continuing to work with SOMEA to address any issues.”


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