South Orange-Maplewood Changes School Reopening Plan; Phase 4 Paused Until February

by The Village Green
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From Dr. Ronald Taylor:

Dear SOMSD Families:

I am writing to apprise you of an important shift in our District’s phased reopening plan. On tomorrow January 13 our teachers return to our school buildings to prepare for our hybrid reopening.

We are happy to again confirm that we will indeed welcome students back to our schools on Tuesday, January 19, as part of our Phase 3 re-entry stage. As things stand, we plan to open our school doors to PreK – 2, 6th and 9th-grade students; this is in addition to English Language Learners and Special Services Students (details will be sent under separate cover from our Special Services office to impacted families).

After conferring with our local towns’ health departments and internal district health professionals, the District has decided that we will extend the duration of the Phase 3 re-entry stage and pause the launch of Phase 4 (which was set to begin on January 25).  It goes without saying that it is our responsibility to plan a phased reopening based on our judgment of what is safest for our school’s children, families and staff while also understanding the social-emotional toll that these circumstances have had on us all.   We are also aware that COVID continues to be a very serious issue in our local community, state and country.

The goal of this extension is to successfully launch our hybrid approach and provide in-person instruction for the families who selected this option.  This change:

  1. Will allow for a smaller population of students/staff to be in our schools and also provide additional time to monitor Covid-transmission rates (if any in our schools),  community and region.
  2. Allows us the opportunity to closely monitor the protocols put in place, in case a modification is needed to continue to ensure the health and safety of students and staff to be in school.

In early February, based on local COVID-transmission rates and the Regional Risk Level in the county (currently we are in Code Orange, which is high, however schools can remain open for in-person instruction with mitigation strategies in place) we will revisit our plan.  At that point, we will make a determination to transition to Phase 4.   Phase 4 implementation will occur with a revised staggered grade-level re-entry, with fewer grade levels introduced at each stage

Updates:  Phase 3 – January 19 – February 5 (estimated based on available information):

  • Pre-K – 2, 6th, 9th and Cohort C (ELL/Special Services) students will begin school following the schedule that was shared with families yesterday
  • The District will continue with an AA/BB approach (2 days in-person (4 hours), 3 days virtual)
  • All remaining grades will continue with their virtual learning schedule until further notice.

The  instructional schedule for this week will remain the same (the only change is that the week of 1/25 will no longer introduce new grade levels to the buildings). Click here to view the 1/11 school reopening letter:  Additional information will be shared in this Friday’s District newsletter to the SOMSD Community.

Please note due to technical issues, elementary and middle school cohort designation letters will be uploaded to the PowerSchool parent portal tomorrow morning. 

[Editor’s Note: the following was sent only to teachers and staff:

Teachers at the elementary and middle school grade levels (Grades 3-5, 7 & 8) whose students’ [sic] are not reporting to hybrid instruction at this time, will have the option of continuing to work virtually from home or they may teach virtually from their classroom. Teachers who wish to teach from their classroom should inform their building administrator.

CHS staff will receive additional information from their building administrator.

The instructional schedule as shared last week will remain the same (the only change is that the week of 1/25 will no longer introduce new grade levels to the buildings). Click here to view the Jan. 8 staff letter:
Additional information and updates to staff FAQs will be shared on Friday.]

Educationally yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor
Superintendent of Schools

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