MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The South Orange-Maplewood School District announced its intention to move forward with the plan to reopen schools for hybrid in-person learning November 12.

This announcement came in a district email to staff today, then mentioned during tonight’s Board of Education candidate forum when moderator Suzanne Ryan asked the candidates their reactions to the plan. The letter has been forwarded to TAPinto SOMA by a district teacher and appears below in full.

In the email, Superintendent Ronald Taylor shared that the full re-entry plan would be shared at next Monday night’s board of education meeting. That same day teachers will also be able to enter their classrooms to begin preparing for in-person learning.

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“Although this initial return is voluntary, we strongly encourage teachers to visit their classrooms, to set-up and give yourself a few weeks to test out teaching virtually from the school building prior to students’ return,” wrote Dr. Taylor.

Childcare through the YMCA will continue to be available for staff members as they will not be permitted to bring their children into the school buildings.

The Board of Education candidates were given the opportunity to react to this new information during the forum. At the time it was not known that this communication was only meant for teachers so the candidates, who are all SOMSD parents, were surprised by this new information.

“I think that prioritizing our return to in person for our youngest learners, for our PreK-2 and for some of our students with IEPs and 504s and other students without those designations but who need those extra supports that that needs to be prioritized in any November 12 deadline return to in-person learning,” said candidate Courtney Winkfield.

Candidate Deborah Engel also expressed concerns over the plan to go in-person. She noted that if schools go hybrid and then have to return to fully virtual a lot of time would have to be spent transitioning back and forth for both teachers and students.

This announcement comes less than one week after two Columbia students tested positive for COVID-19, and ultimate frisbee and girl’s tennis suspended practice.

The district was unavailable for comment on this story before publishing. 



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