South Orange-Maplewood BOE, Teachers Union Reach Agreement; In-Person Classes to Resume Monday

by The Village Green
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After a day of negotiations following the temporary suspension of in-person learning, the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education and the teachers union have reached an agreement regarding the teachers’ return to classrooms. The regular, hybrid in-person schedule will resume on Monday, February 1.

In an email to members on Wednesday afternoon, the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) executive board said they and the BOE had agreed that individual classrooms and other spaces would be assessed, and that employees in rooms “where concerns persist will be relocated or classes will be moved to virtual learning temporarily” until necessary maintenance are repairs are completed.

Classrooms would be assessed beginning as soon as Wednesday using a set of criteria the BOE and SOMEA agreed to, which “will be the standard going forward as additional grades and classes resume in-person instruction.” The criteria were not specified in the email.

Aside from classrooms affected by repairs and maintenance, in-person learning will resume its regular schedule on Monday “and continue going forward,” according to the email.

In addition, “the Board and the Association will continue to dialogue in order to address critical issues related to the health and safety of our employees and members.”

See the full SOMEA letter below. The District’s announcement is at the end of the article.

The development comes two days after SOMEA declared in a letter to Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor that educators would teach remotely, citing “unsafe” and “deplorable” conditions including classrooms with freezing temperatures, a lack of social distancing and inconsistent mask-wearing, a failure to quarantine students and staff after potential exposure to COVID-19, and problems with connectivity.

The district and union began discussions on Tuesday, but failed to reach an agreement that night, leading to Taylor’s decision to return to all-virtual instruction on Wednesday.

Dear SOMEA,

The Board and Association met for several hours yesterday regarding the readiness of the facilities for in-person learning. After hearing the Association’s concerns, the Board agreed upon a set of criteria whereby individual worksites would be assessed beginning on Wednesday. Employees in rooms where concerns persist will be relocated or classes will be moved to virtual learning temporarily while further room maintenance, repairs, and installations, in addition to the preparation work already undertaken, are performed. These criteria will be the standard going forward as additional grades and classes resume in-person instruction. As the assessment will occur throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday, those days will be virtual days. If a class is identified for temporary virtual learning, notice will be provided. Otherwise, the in-person schedule previously established will resume Monday and continue going forward. Additionally, the Board and the Association will continue to dialogue in order to address critical issues related to the health and safety of our employees and members.

Executive Board

Rocio Lopez, President
Shira Lincoln, Vice President
Phil McCormick, Secretary
Laurie Pham, Treasurer
Michelle Rhodes-Soriano, Member Communications

Dear SOMSD Community,

Thank you for your patience as we navigate these complex and granular matters with SOMEA our partners in education. Thank you also to our Parents, Administrators, Educators and Support staff for all that you have done to support our efforts to educate the children of our community. Please accept the joint statement below on behalf of our Board President Thair Joshua, Board of Education, SOMEA and our Administration.

The Board and Association met for several hours yesterday regarding the readiness of the facilities for in-person learning. After hearing the Association’s concerns, the Board agreed upon a set of criteria whereby individual worksites would be assessed beginning on Wednesday. Employees in rooms where concerns persist will be relocated or classes will be moved to virtual learning temporarily while further room maintenance, repairs, and installations, in addition to the preparation work already undertaken, are performed. These criteria will be the standard going forward as additional grades and classes resume in-person instruction. As the assessment will occur throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday, those days will be virtual days. If a class is identified for temporary virtual learning, notice will be provided. Otherwise, the in-person schedule previously established will resume Monday and continue going forward. Additionally, the Board and the Association will continue to dialogue in order to address critical issues related to the health and safety of our employees and members.

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools

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