South Orange-Maplewood School District Evaluating Plans for Fall Reopening

by Bruno J. Navarro
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After first closing March 16 to halt the spread of coronavirus, public schools in Maplewood and South Orange are evaluating options for reopening in September. 

Under consideration are a variety of alternative in-person classroom schedules, including half-days to reduce the number of students in a school at any given time, along with online lessons. Another option involves students going to school for four days in a row, followed by 10 days off.

“We’re trying to prepare for everything,” Taylor said at Monday’s meeting. 

To that end, the school district is preparing to request bids for a new learning management system that will enable age-appropriate live digital instruction, which “will be mandated for all.”

The school district has created a page on its website devoted to updates related to COVID-19.

Taylor added that much of SOMSD’s efforts will depend upon guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education, whose most recent reopening plan announced that schools “will open in some capacity for in-person instruction and operations in the fall.” The document instructs each school district to create a plan that “best fits the district’s local needs.”

SOMSD is already preparing for increased cleaning of school facilities, purchasing no-touch thermometers and face masks for staff, and adjusting staff schedules to allow for extended preparation time, Taylor said, describing wide-scale temperature checks. The school district will also develop protocols for such scenarios as what to do when a student registers an elevated temperature, when parents don’t want to send a child to school, or if a teacher is unable to return to the classroom.

Last month, the Board of Education adopted a distance-learning plan amid calls for more live instruction.

Clinton School Socially Distant 5th Grade Graduation. Photo by Susanna Mann.

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