MAPLEWOOD, NJ — As teachers are set to start preparing their classrooms tomorrow for hybrid learning on Jan. 19, Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor emailed the school community after most students' bedtime, amending the time frame of the district's Phase 3 re-entry stage.

“After conferring with our local towns’ health departments and internal district health professionals, the District has decided that we will extend the duration of the Phase 3 re-entry stage and pause the launch of Phase 4 (which was set to begin on January 25),” Taylor's email said. “It goes without saying that it is our responsibility to plan a phased reopening based on our judgment of what is safest for our school’s children, families and staff while also understanding the social-emotional toll that these circumstances have had on us all.”

Even before learning of the change, teachers and parents spent today on social media, planning a noon rally outside each school in support of teachers who feel unsafe going back to in-person teaching before being fully vaccinated. The South Orange Maplewood Education Association had written a letter expressing a desire to delay the return to the Board of Education, which was read at the Jan. 6 meeting by Taylor.

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Tonight's email also stated that the students to return to schools on Tuesday, January 19, as part of the Phase 3 re-entry stage, will be PreK through second grade, sixth and ninth grade students. “This is in addition to English Language Learners and Special Services Students.”

Taylor said Phase 4 will now be re-evaluated in early February. “Phase 4 implementation will occur with a revised staggered grade-level re-entry, with fewer grade levels introduced at each stage.”



The email noted that this change “will allow for a smaller population of students/staff to be in our schools and also provide additional time to monitor Covid-transmission rates (if any in our schools), community and region” as well as allows “the opportunity to closely monitor the protocols put in place, in case a modification is needed to continue to ensure the health and safety of students and staff to be in school.”

In early February, Taylor wrote, “based on local COVID-transmission rates and the Regional Risk Level in the county (currently we are in Code Orange, which is high, however schools can remain open for in-person instruction with mitigation strategies in place) we will revisit our plan."
 

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