SOMEA, the South Orange-Maplewood teachers’ union, launched a petition urging the district to postpone the reopening of schools this week. The petition — which as of Sunday night had garnered nearly 600 signatures — also encourages signers to email Superintendent Ronald Taylor, the Board of Education and town elected officials to ask them to continue virtual learning until teachers can be vaccinated.
Teachers staged a district-wide walkout on Tuesday and sent Taylor a letter asking him to reconsider reopening.
PreK-2nd grade, 6th grade and 9th grade students, English Language Learners and Special Services Students opting for hybrid learning are scheduled to return to their classrooms on Tuesday, January 19. The district has paused the next phase of the reopening plan, which would bring the rest of the student body back on a hybrid schedule.
“As positive cases of Covid-19 are increasing daily by triple digits, the administration…believes it is time for SOMSD schools to transition to in-person education,” the petition reads. “However, this is quite possibly the worst time to return to buildings. Exposures and transmissions from holiday gatherings and travel are just now hitting the population, combined with a new variant, from the UK, introduced in our state and our community, that make it simply too dangerous to begin in-person instruction in the coming weeks….schools should continue all-remote instruction until at least the majority of staff have the vaccine, the buildings are proven to be ready, and when we can measure and assess the impact that the virus has had on our school community.”
Essex County is reporting an average of 500-600 new cases of coronavirus daily.
“Nothing matters more than the health and safety of our students, our staff and our community, and our schools should take the lead in helping to protect all of us,” the petition concludes.