Supt. Taylor Offers Thanksgiving for Safe Return to In-Person School, Asks for Continued Vigilance

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The following message was delivered by South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald G. Taylor as part of his Superintendent’s Report at the November 15, 2021 Board of Education meeting.

Good evening, everyone. As we move into the season where many in our community pause to reflect and give thanks, I would like to acknowledge and thank all who have assisted our district in overcoming many obstacles to successfully launch and sustain our school year:

Our school leaders, our teachers, our support staff, central office, counselors, CST [Child Study Team] members, school nurses, our facilities department, our custodians, as well as our students, families, and community members.

You have all had a hand in us reaching the Thanksgiving milestone.

In the past, we would have taken that for granted. We have all sacrificed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. We have all given some of ourselves towards the greater good of our school district family. As we entered last summer, and this fall, I repeatedly vowed that we would do all we could to return our students to schools that operated in a fashion that would be “as close to pre-COVID as possible.” That meant full days with lunch periods, traditional academic schedules, music, sports, clubs, and afterschool programs.

Thanks to you, we’ve been able to fulfill this promise while working tirelessly to keep everyone healthy and safe. We did this while successfully implementing Year 1 of our Intentional Integration Initiative and breaking ground on the first of many construction projects. Those two generational goals would have been considered ambitious during a typical school year. And we were very proud of our progress thus far.

We know that the challenge of COVID-19 is far more impactful than just physical illness. The social emotional toll that our students and staff members feel cannot be ignored. We know that the need for support is not always apparent from an individual’s presentation. Over the last few years, our annual budget has added mental health support to our schools. We urge our families to let your schools know if you sense that your child is having challenges, even if you cannot quite put your finger on it. To our instructional professionals or school leaders, we also encourage you to do the same for yourself. Let your supervisor or our human resources department know if you need support.

With that being said, we must continue to recognize that the threat of COVID-19 is still with us. We must stay vigilant. As recently as last week, schools not far from us have had to close due to in-school spread. To assist in preventing this from occurring in our schools, we are providing additional testing in our district while of course, publicizing and encouraging vaccinations for all of our stakeholders.

To that end to our families of students who are not yet fully vaccinated, please be on the look out for our Thanksgiving travel survey that will assist us in continuing to stop the spread of the pandemic in our schools. Similar to our fall break travel survey, we will share your responses with our principals so they can ensure that that virtual instruction is verified and in place for your child.

Lastly, as we give thanks, I like to personally and publicly thank our board of education, our superintendent’s cabinet also known as the SLT, Lead Nurse Julie Porter, our departments of health, Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, our teachers and our principals for your tireless support as we continue to push through the challenges of the pandemic on behalf of our children, families, and community.

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