South Orange-Maplewood Teachers Union, Superintendent Seeking ‘Beneficial Resolution’ to Standoff

by Bruno J. Navarro
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A day after the local teachers union declared that educators would return only for “all-virtual” instruction, citing “unsafe” and “deplorable” conditions throughout the South Orange-Maplewood School District, Superintendent Ronald Taylor and school district officials were looking to strike an agreement, SOMSD spokesperson Anide Eustache said Tuesday afternoon.

“The Superintendent’s Office is meeting with SOMEA leadership to come to a beneficial resolution to their concerns, and we will contact District families if there are any changes to school schedules,” Eustache said.

On Monday, the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association criticized the school district’s partial return to classrooms amid rising COVID-19 cases throughout the state instead of waiting for teachers to be vaccinated.

“While SOMEA respectfully pointed out the ill-advised nature of this decision, it nonetheless in good faith returned to buildings as directed. Yet that same good faith has been absent from our administration,” the union said in a letter.

The letter also noted classrooms with freezing temperatures from open windows needed for ventilation, a lack of social distancing and inconsistent mask-wearing, a failure to quarantine students and staff after potential exposure to COVID-19, as well as problems with Wi-Fi connectivity and other issues.

“Following a reasonable effort in good faith to provide hybrid instruction to our students, we write to advise you of the necessity of SOMEA to return to all-virtual instruction effective Wednesday, January 27, 2021, given the unsafe conditions and ineffectiveness of the district’s current operations,” the letter said. “Please know this is not a decision SOMEA made lightly.”

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