MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Phase 3 of the South Orange Maplewood School District’s Return to School plan will be moving forward with students returning to school buildings this Tuesday despite objections from teachers and some parents.

Students in PreK-2nd, 6th, 9th, English Language Learner and Special Education classes will be returning to school buildings for two days per week on the AA/BB cohort schedule. President of the Board of Education Thair Joshua said no changes have been made to the reopening plan since January 12, when the district announced that Phase 4 of re-entry would be postponed until early February at least.

This is despite the coordinated walkout of teachers across the district this past week in protest of the mandatory return. Teachers said they are being put at an unnecessary risk because they will be eligible for the vaccine in just a few weeks time.

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After the protest SOMEA (South Orange Maplewood Education Association) sent a letter to Superintendent Ronald Taylor highlighting the rising number of cases in the community.

“We cannot help but feel that we are entering into a situation of very real danger, to ourselves and colleagues, and to our students and their families,” the letter read. “Those of us who work in K-12 education are part of the next group to receive a vaccine. With this in sight, literally a few weeks away, we are disheartened that we are not waiting as a district to return to in-person instruction.”

Joshua said that the school board has been receiving emails from parents on both sides of the issue, but he does not anticipate any changes being made.

“We continue to listen to district families as we continue to make sure our school buildings are safe for students and staff to return,” said Joshua.

The district declined to comment on the walk-out or subsequent letter.



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