MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) has asked the Superintendent and Board of Education to reconsider their decision to begin hybrid in-person learning, which the district decided to do a day later, after concerns about the ventilation system appeared.

The open letter was posted on the SOMEA Facebook page Wednesday and was signed by the SOMEA executive board. It asserted that a return to school buildings would not only endanger students and staff but also exacerbate inequalities between virtual and in-person students.

“To return to a hybrid instruction whereby teachers are somehow to provide meaningful instruction simultaneously to the individuals in front of them and the remaining individuals on a screen will necessarily result in a reduction in overall instruction per week as well as inequity in assessment,” they wrote.

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SOMEA also pointed to the risks that Columbia teachers will be facing due to the recent rise in cases among teens.

During the public speaks portion of Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Clinton teacher Antoinette Gelin expressed concerns and reservations about having to return to the school building while cases in New Jersey continue to rise. According to the Clinton School website, Gelin teaches English Language Learners, meaning she would be among the first group of teachers to start in-person instruction.

Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor however did not directly answer Gelin’s questions, but instead directed her to contact her supervisor about her main concern, the lack of space in her classroom to safely accommodate all her students if they chose to learn in-person.

Taylor has said the district will announce early next week whether they will be moving forward or postponing the Nov. 12 re-entry plan. The two town halls scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday have also been postponed until further notice.



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