Public-school teachers are heading back to the classroom in South Orange and Maplewood but not for in-person classes — yet.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District will open all its buildings on Monday, October 19, giving teachers the option of teaching virtually from their classrooms. “This is to begin preparing their classrooms for our hybrid model,” SOMSD Communications Director Anide Eustache wrote via email.
“For our teaching staff, that means that they are free to broadcast their lessons from their classrooms beginning on this date,” she added, noting that teachers who want to return will coordinate with their building administrators.
No decision has been announced as to when students will be permitted to return for in-person instruction, although the virtual learning will continue throughout the first marking period.
Eustache added that all SOMSD staff “will be required to return to their customary in-person tour of duty expectations” beginning November 9 “in preparation for hybrid instruction.”
Preparations for the shift to a combination of in-person and online classes come amid the backdrop of Columbia High School students who tested positive for COVID-19 and a one-day spike of confirmed cases in South Orange.
Board of Education President Annemarie Maini said that she was optimistic that SOMSD had addressed many of the school community’s concerns despite the complexity of the coronavirus crisis. “We’ve been able to get clarity on how to support teachers who have a medical need to stay out of the school for the year,” she said.
Maini also credited Superintendent Ronald Taylor for his collaborative approach.
“Dr. Taylor is on track to have a plan for reopening in the second quarter, and he’s going to present that at Monday’s meeting,” she said. “Dr. Taylor doesn’t do anything without consulting with building leaders and health leaders.”
Maini added that the school district would announce two upcoming town hall meetings at which Taylor will provide further details about the plans for reopening and answer questions.
Taylor is expected to provide more detail about the school district’s restarting plan at the next Board of Education meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday.