SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Cohort A parents are ecstatic after the first day of in-person school since March. 

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, students returned to school buildings. The district has been preparing for this day since last spring when Governor Phil Murphy announced that schools would have to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

“It was wonderful, it was the most excited they've been since COVID started,” said Heather Hartzell, mother of a kindergartner and second-grader at South Mountain Annex. “My kindergartner took off running towards class this morning.”

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Even though there are only three students total in her daughter’s cohort, Alison Schramm said it was totally worth it for her very social first-grader to have the social interactions she’s been missing out on at home.

“We were happy to see the crossing guards we recognized, and she was so excited to ride the shuttle to the annex even though it was just her and the driver,” said Schramm. “She talked about how exciting it was that her librarian came into the classroom to do their program.”

All the parents who spoke with TAPinto SOMA commended teachers for making the transition to hybrid learning a positive experience for their children.

Mary Agnant said her son Dylan’s teacher at Marshall, Miss Kaplus, put everyone at ease.

“My biggest reservations came because of the teacher walkout because the teacher’s energy is important and can impact the kids, but his teacher was very supportive,” said Agnant.

Dylan’s kindergarten cohort has five kids and the teacher in the classroom, and Agnant said she felt it would be safe for her son.

“I do trust the other parents that they are not sending their kids to school if they are sick and that the teachers would not come to school with symptoms,” said Agnant.

Heather Hartzell said she felt safe sending both of her younger kids back, and was glad to get a call from her kindergartner's teacher the night before class.

“Luckily we have no one at high risk in our family. I’m just thrilled because it went so well and I hope that our older daughter can get back in the building with other kids soon,” said Hartzell.

She added that her kids are comfortable wearing masks, a sentiment echoed by Alison Schramm.

“We model for our kids, and so they don’t have any problems wearing the mask,” Schramm said.

Cohort B will return for in-person school Wednesday and Thursday. Fridays will remain all-virtual across the district.



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TAPinto SOMA is a free online newspaper serving the Townships of Maplewood and South Orange Village with no paywall. TAPinto SOMA is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.