South Orange-Maplewood School District Releases Reopening Plan

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The South Orange-Maplewood School District released its 2020-21 reopening plan and summary. Find them here on the SOMSD website or download below. 

From the South Orange & Maplewood School District Reopening Summary:

Dear SOMSD Community, As we head into the 2020-21 school year, we are excited to welcome our students and staff back to school in September, whether we see you in-person or virtually. We are working to ensure a safe and productive environment for all. We shared our reopening plan; however, we also wanted to share a shorter communication that highlights some of the key information regarding plans for reopening schools.

This presentation includes information on safety measures, instructional models, schedules, the new learning environment, health screenings and more. We are living in unprecedented times and must remain flexible. As guidelines and orders change from local, state and federal authorities, our District will adjust. But rest assured, our focus will always remain on doing what’s best for students and staff.

Educationally Yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

Back to School Transition: Two-Week Virtual Start

+ All District students will begin the school year with a two-week virtual start, from September 8 to September 18

+ On Monday, September 21, in-person learning at schools will begin (virtual only students will continue their instruction online)

+ The District believes that introducing a two-week virtual start will support the physical and mental health as well as learning needs of our community by allowing:

– Orientation to the online (Canvas) platform for staff, students and families;

– Staff that are coming in-person to be able to teach from their school buildings and schools to be able to practice together entry, exit and bathroom schedules, etc.;

– Schools to run daily health messages to staff and students;

– Two-week period for students and families to be home and not travelling to areas of high incidence of COVID-19; and

– Time for Parent/Guardian and Staff agreement letters collection, organization and follow-up

Face Coverings

Face coverings are required for students and staff in SOMSD buildings or on the school bus, unless it will inhibit the individual’s health. Short face covering breaks for students may be incorporated into the schedule as feasible, but only when social distancing can be maintained. Recommended time for face covering breaks is no more than five minutes indoors, ideally with windows open, and no more than ten minutes outdoors. Face coverings must cover the nose and mouth. If an individual refuses to wear a face covering for a non-medical reason, that individual may not enter the building. A student who refuses to wear a face covering for a non-medical reason may learn virtually. Have multiple cloth face coverings so you can wash them daily and have back-ups ready (if possible, at minimum have at least 2 reusable face masks ready for your child for back to school)

Social Distancing

Schools in the district will allow for social distancing within the classroom to the maximum extent practicable. All instructional and non-instructional rooms in schools and district facilities must comply with social distancing standards to the maximum extent practicable. Instructional staff will reinforce social distancing protocol with students and co-teacher or support staff. Social distancing protocols will be implemented in classrooms, during transitions, and in common areas, and will include the following:

● Facial coverings;

● Six-feet social distancing, when possible;

● Plexiglass shields in high-traffic areas such as front offices;

Classroom Modifications & Common Area Modifications

Schools in the district will allow for social distancing within the classroom to the maximum extent practicable. This will be achieved by ensuring students are seated at least six feet apart. Students will be monitored in all common area locations to encourage social distancing practices. Install plexiglass shields in main offices and security desks.

Controlled Movement Patterns

Students will have assigned entrances and exits. Facial coverings are required. Schools will provide physical guides such as tape on floors and sidewalks and signs on walls as applicable, to help ensure that staff and students remain at least six feet apart in lines and at other times (i.e., guides for creating one-way routes in hallways).

Additional Hand Sanitizing Stations

Hand sanitizing stations with alcohol-based sanitizer/wipes (60% alcohol) will be prepared: in each classroom (for staff and children who can safely use hand sanitizer); at entrances and exits of buildings; near lunchrooms and toilets. In addition, to hand sanitizing stations – for classrooms that have existing sinks/handwashing stations – soap and paper towels will be prepared.

Health & Wellness Protocol

Parents will screen students before their children leave the house for in-person instruction. This includes temperature and symptom checking. A Parent Agreement Letter of Compliance with COVID-19 Guidelines will be sent to each district family. The letter will include: signs and symptoms of COVID-19; what to do when a child is ill; medical, health department and health insurance resources; travel advisory information; how to update emergency contact information on PowerSchool; the importance of sending healthy children to school with a facial covering; and the necessity of picking up ill children from school promptly.

Extracurricular Activities & Athletics

All extracurricular activities, with the exception of some athletics will be significantly diminished to the fullest extent possible to allow for proper cleaning time; social distancing and hygiene protocols will be maintained by these groups under the supervision of their coaches and activity leaders. In addition, SOMSD will cancel field trips, assemblies, and/or other large gatherings. Finally, external community organizations that use school/district facilities will not be allowed. Virtual group events, gatherings , or meeting in lieu of field trips will be pursued.

Recess & Physical Education

Recess, if an option will be staggered. If 2 or more groups participate in recess at the same time, there will be at least 6 feet of open space between the groups. Cones, flags, tape or other signs will be used to create boundaries between groups. Students/staff will be required to wash hands immediately after outdoor time. Locker rooms for secondary schools will be closed and students will not change for physical education. Students may be encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and footwear to allow for safe movement and is appropriate for the weather in order to participate in physical education without the use of a locker room. The District will mitigate risk, limit and/or eliminate direct contact with equipment and will not allow sharing of equipment. If equipment must be shared, the equipment will be cleaned and disinfected between each use.

Meals & Food Services

In schools with breakfast programs individual schools may decide to use cafeteria and/or group dining area and/or classroom and/or outside space as feasible. Family style, self-service, and buffet shall be discontinued and students will be spaced at least 6 feet apart. No sharing food is allowed. Proper hand washing before and after eating will be encouraged and disposable food service items will be used as feasible. An allergy-aware table/area for students with food allergies will be provided. For lunch programs, prior to dismissal, bag and go lunch will be made available to all students and will be sent home with the students. On any day that a student is not on-site, families can pick up meals at a designated location each day. Food celebrations, including birthdays, holidays, or achievement will be discontinued in the classroom. In all areas where food is prepared or consumed, surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized regularly.


If the school district is providing transportation services on a school bus, a face covering must be worn by all students who are able to do so upon entering the bus. Students will follow the same protocol when boarding a bus as required to enter a school building. A transportation aide will be assigned to each bus and will be responsible to ensure students are following safety protocol and to periodically wipe down seats, seat belts and handrails. Students refusing to wear masks may lose their transportation privileges. Buses will be disinfected each time they return to the bus yard after morning routes are complete, and after the afternoon routes are completed.


School officials will continue to adhere to existing required facilities cleaning practices and procedures, and any new specific requirements of the local health department as they arise. Cleaning/disinfecting schedules will be established and surfaces not ordinarily cleaned daily (e.g. door knobs, light switches, classroom sink handles, countertops) will routinely be cleaned and disinfected. Bathrooms will be sanitized daily using protocols outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). HEPA filters will be used in air ventilation systems and sanitizing devices will be installed in rooms (where feasible) which will run continuously to help remove viruses and bacteria from the air. The custodians will disinfect all rooms every night.

Canvas: New Learning Management System

All grades and classes will use Canvas as the primary Learning Management System (LMS) while in person and remote learning takes place. Both elementary and secondary schools will use consistent Canvas modules and layouts across classes and grades. Students and parents will have access to Canvas accounts that will organize all their learning by subject each day. Students, families, and teachers will use Canvas to communicate with each other, conduct office hours, and students will also be able to work independently or as part of a team.


Visitors are not permitted to enter the building, unless they are essential visitors such as emergency and law enforcement personnel in their official capacity, DCP&P personnel and Health Department personnel. The principal may admit a visitor by appointment if the principal determines that it is necessary. In all such cases, the visitor shall submit to the screening procedure before entering the building (i.e., temperature and exposure questionnaire) and shall be required to wear a face mask. Food delivery and other non-essential deliveries will not be allowed.

SOMSD Student Virtual Code of Conduct

The SOMSD Virtual Code of Conduct is intended to give our students, families and staff members clear guidelines around what is expected of our students in a virtual setting.

Read or download the reopening plan summary here (skip to p. 15 for Instructional Models &Scheduling Childcare Considerations):

Download (PDF, 21.91MB)

Read or download the full SOMSD Restart & Recovery Plan_8.8.20 here:

Download (PDF, 4.41MB)

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