With two South Orange-Maplewood School District schools (Clinton and South Mountain) already returned to temporary universal mandatory indoor masking due to outbreaks and Essex County now reporting “high” levels of COVID transmission, the South Orange-Maplewood School District is “strongly recommending” that all schools and students return to indoor masking — but is not requiring it.
According to a letter from the district sent to families on May 13, New Jersey Department of Health guidance recommends “that schools should strongly consider universal masking during CALI score of high (orange) – for all students and staff, especially if there is difficulty incorporating other layered prevention strategies (e.g., adequate spacing of students).”
However, the district will not return to universal indoor masking “due to the fact that the outbreaks identified by our local departments of health were contained to the respective schools and/ or classrooms and the appropriate actions have been taken.”
Millburn Public Schools is taking a similar stance.
Read more below:
From the South Orange-Maplewood School District:
Good Afternoon SOMSD Community,
We continue to prioritize keeping our students in school as much as possible for a full day of in-person learning. Based on the most recent COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) Report released by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), Essex County, as well as the majority of NJ, is now considered in high community transmission (orange).
According to the NJDOH, for schools that choose not to institute a universal masking policy, it is recommended that schools should strongly consider universal masking during CALI score of high (orange) – for all students and staff, especially if there is difficulty incorporating other layered prevention strategies (e.g., adequate spacing of students). Furthermore, the NJDOH also clarifies that – during an outbreak or a general increase in cases, schools should consult with their local health departments as to whether short-term universal masking or masking in affected classrooms should be required to control the outbreak/increase in cases.
Currently, due to several classroom outbreaks, two of our school communities, Clinton Elementary and South Mountain Elementary (big school) have been required to shift to a mandatory short-term “universal masking” indoors/buses for all staff and students.
While the NJDOH and the local health departments strongly recommend “universal masking” during high COVID community transmission, as a District, we are not instituting a District-wide return to mandatory “universal masking.” This is due to the fact that the outbreaks identified by our local departments of health were contained to the respective schools and/ or classrooms and the appropriate actions have been taken.
However, with the rise in outbreaks in our District over the past two weeks and the new information from the state, we are strongly recommending that all students/staff consider masking while indoors and on the bus. Based on the information we’ve provided, we are leaving it at the discretion of parents/staff to determine the best decision for themselves and their families and will respect the choices made by our students and staff.
Presently, mandatory indoor masking will be required for the following cases:
During large indoor gatherings including, but not limited to, large assemblies, plays, art shows, concerts, upcoming moving up ceremonies;
For individuals who are returning to school after COVID-positive isolation on days 6-10 (mandatory)
As recommended or required by the DOH (i.e., significant increased transmission, outbreak
The current mitigation strategies will continue to be followed:
The district will maintain our cleaning and sanitization protocols in all classrooms and buildings.
We will follow the recommendations from the Department of Health for ventilation and airflow in the classroom, optimize distancing (when possible), and as the weather warms up will begin the use of outdoor space if possible.
We encourage you to visit the District’s Covid-19 dashboard [https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/
Temporary Return to Schoolwide “Universal Masking” – Will provide a brief summary of school buildings who have been required to shift to short-term “universal masking” indoors/buses.
Temporary School Closures: Will share update on any school that is required to close for a period of time (and shift entirely to virtual instruction) due to rising Covid cases.
In addition, later next week we will update our current 2021-22 School Year & Covid webpage to reflect the District’s most current Covid guidelines and protocols, as well as include FAQs for common questions that we have received from our parent community.
As always, the health and safety of everyone in our school buildings is our top priority. As such, we are closely following the recommendations of our state and local health officials. As these recommendations change, we will adjust our health and safety protocols accordingly. It remains possible that we may need to re-implement our mask policy if the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in our schools or community increase.
We thank you for your support and understanding.
We understand the level of concern regarding COVID-19; and we encourage parents and students to continue following the CDC and NJDOH promoted safeguards, such as:
From the Millburn Public Schools:
Dear Millburn Staff and Families,
As my district update indicated yesterday, the community is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases, reflected in the recent Department of Health announcement that most of New Jersey, including our region, has transitioned to a High (Orange) Covid Activity Level (CALI) transmission level of the virus.
As a result of this new transmission level, the NJ DOH has updated their recommendations/guidance for schools. As we have been doing when we see an increase in cases in a classroom or school, we will strongly encourage all staff and students to wear masks, and will consider other measures as recommended below:
- Strongly consider universal masking for all students and staff. This may include outdoor activities as well, especially for outdoor activities where close contact occurs.
- Maximize the physical distancing between students/staff to the greatest extent possible especially during higher-risk activities, eating, singing, etc.
- Consider transitioning certain meetings/club activities to virtual as feasible.
- Continued cleaning/disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces.
- Increasing air ventilation as feasible and/or making use of outdoor areas weather permitting (and allergies).