The South Orange-Maplewood Board of School Estimate meeting was held on Thursday, March 11, 2021, to provide an update on construction and debt service related to the Long Range Facilities Plan (see agenda below) At the top of the meeting, Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum issued a joint statement regarding schools reopening; we are reprinting it here.
Village Green will report fully on the meeting in an upcoming story.
McGehee: “One year ago tomorrow from the Mayor’s office in Town Hall I declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 virus that was spreading rapidly throughout our community and our country. The next day, President Collum enacted the same decision for South Orange. It is one year later and our municipalities are experiencing a new state of emergency and it involves our children and their education. It is evident to my colleagues and I that it is time for our teachers who we love and respect and are part of the SOMEA organization to come together and reimagine the type of leadership that they want to represent them in our community.
President Collum and I as well as Mayor Klein of Livingston worked collaboratively – initially to push for resources at the county level regarding vaccination opportunities for teachers. And after garnering support from the county, we then took our advocacy to Governor Murphy and his staff which resulted in the opportunity for any teacher to be vaccinated. This was a critical milestone in what has been a long journey toward our children returning to the classroom.”
Collum: “In addition, our collective efforts also led to providing testing opportunities for our teachers and administrators at a medical testing facility in South Orange or the ability to take a COVID-19 test on school grounds – once our teachers return to school.
We believe that the phased-in hybrid approach which returns the children of the South Orange Maplewood community to the classroom provides more than enough adequate space in our facilities to teach safely while providing time to address the remaining areas in question in our facilities to be addressed in preparation for a return to full in-class instruction.”
McGehee: “So as a parent of a student in the district and as taxpayers in the district, we are looking for the leadership of SOMEA to end this now or for all of our teachers to reimagine their leadership and collaborate with our community so we can move forward from this pandemic and most importantly achieve our collective goal which is providing our children with the quality education – with in class instruction- which they deserve. Thank you.”