April 3, 2020, Superintendent Taylor's Weekly Wrap-Up Message to the SOMSD Community. Be well and remember that we are all in this together. #SOMSDFamily
Posted by South Orange & Maplewood School District on Friday, April 3, 2020
A friendly reminder from our district’s lead nurse, Julie Porter to our #SOMSDFamily please continue to practice #socialdistancing. We are in this together, be safe and well.
March 26, 2020
Dear SOMSD Families,
We hope that this letter finds you all healthy and safe. Thank you for your continued patience, flexibility and support as we work together as a community to practice social distancing and help our collective communities slow the spread of COVID-19.
We also thank you for your general appreciation for the work done by our staff, honest feedback, and recommendations concerning our distance learning curriculum. We’ve heard your concerns and as we continue our distance learning we want to provide you with updates and share further guidance, clarification and next steps to support online instruction for students in grades K-12. Pre-K Program instruction will be addressed in a separate communication. As shared in our previous communication, distance learning continuation will officially begin on Wed., April 1 through April 9, 2020 (Spring Break, April 10 – 17, with a tentative back to school date of April 20).
A consistent thread raised by families was the question of technology, connectivity, equity, and access as well as the ‘want’ for possible direct instruction via video connecting applications. We are pleased to share that we performed multiple telephone ‘technology need surveys’ of our community and were able to offer a device to all families that expressed a need to borrow a device. Working with our technology department, principals and their staff at each of our schools led the distribution of our school-based Chromebook inventory to families. We believe this distribution will now allow for our instruction to migrate almost exclusively to a technology platform.
While we will continue to utilize Google Classroom, there will be other platforms also available to facilitate instruction and explanations of new concepts for our students. We believe we have found reasonable compromises on the topic of instructional technology (additional details are listed in the guideline section below):
- All teachers will post 90 minutes of consistent “office hours” where the teacher will be online to answer questions.
- Teachers will now have many options to interact with their students. Some options will include recorded lessons and platforms that do not have images of participants’ faces etc. There are more details of these options to follow.
Please remember many teachers have families of their own at home and they may also be juggling work between more than one child. We also do not know the state of health for our teachers and their families, so we ask you to be considerate of their home life as we continue to navigate our new normal. We encourage our staff, families and our students to reach out to their teachers, principals, and the District Office with questions and concerns. If you would like to email us closure-related questions please use firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, thank you for your continued flexibility and cooperation during this unprecedented time.
We understand there are questions, concerns, and “what if” situations that will continue to surface. We ask that as needs arise, you stay in close communication with our school district. We will continue to provide routine updates as new information becomes available, via email, robocalls, texts, website, and social media updates so please remain connected with our school community.
GUIDELINES, EXPECTATIONS & REMINDERS
Our Curriculum Supervisors have given teachers a condensed, online friendly curriculum/guide to structure their teaching and student learning. Our focus with distance learning is to develop a systemic process to gather and curate instructionally appropriate resources for all SOMSD students. While we are looking for consistency across the district in grade levels/courses, we also want to ensure that our teachers have more freedom to teach under these unusual circumstances.
March 25, 2020
Dear SOMSD Staff & Family,
I hope that this correspondence finds you, your families, and your loved ones (both near and far) safe and healthy. Thank you for your continued patience and support as we work together as a community to keep everyone safe. I appreciate your efforts at home in helping provide our students with a continuity of education during this closure period.
School Closure Update:
On Friday, March 13, 2020, as you know, we closed all schools in order to protect the health and wellness of our students, our staff, and their families. We wanted to do our part in the nationwide movement to exercise the practice of “Social Distancing” to limit the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The following week, Governor Murphy issued an executive order mandating that all NJ public, private, and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, would close by Wednesday, March 18, 2020, and would remain closed as long as the order stood.
With Governor Murphy’s executive order still in effect, South Orange & Maplewood School District has extended its distance learning through Friday, April 17, 2020, with students tentatively returning to school on Monday, April 20. As we share often, this is a fluid situation, and we continue to partner with the Governor’s Office, the NJ Department of Education, local health agencies, and our educational leaders to ensure that our future plans meet the needs of our greater community. We believe the extension of distance learning through April 17 is a realistic and logical adjustment that is aligned with the recent steps taken by our Governor for the protection of our citizens.
Since our distance learning period began on March 18 and was tentatively slated to last two weeks, this extension will formally begin on Wednesday, April 1 (as a reminder, the first two days of school closures, March 16 & 17, utilized the District’s unused calendar-embedded emergency school closure dates). As we continue distance learning into April, we will move into our normally scheduled Spring Break from April 10 – 20. During this break, we will provide optional high-quality supplemental instructional enrichment opportunities for our students/families to engage with if they wish.
This new arrangement will provide our administrators and staff with an opportunity to take a deep breath and prepare (we hope) to return to our normal operations. The District will be sending a more detailed communication providing additional guidance on the continuation of our distance learning platform to our families via email by end of day tomorrow, Thursday, March 26.
I would also like to remind you that we have a district “Coronavirus Updates” webpage dedicated to our communications on this matter: www.somsd.k12.nj.us/coronavirusupdates. This page includes resources that can support your student (and family’s) mental health needs during this time of uncertainty. We are keeping the needs of ‘the whole child’ at the forefront as we move forward together. Thank you again for your partnership. Be safe and well.
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools
March 17, 2020
Dear South Orange and Maplewood Students and Families,
As students prepare to begin distance learning on Wednesday, March 18th, we want to provide some additional information and guidelines to aid in the process. Before doing so please allow me to recognize the efforts of our staff. Teachers and Administrators have put forth a tremendous effort to create a continuum of instruction that will allow for instruction. Specifically, I would like to acknowledge our Director of Curriculum, Ms. Ann Bodnar and our team of Instructional Academic Supervisors, for facilitating this arduous process. They truly have demonstrated a singular commitment to offering authentic distance learning opportunities for our students.
To that end, do know that our teachers have prepared lessons and activities for students to complete from home. All these assignments are currently accessible on Google Classroom, but also available as a hard copy (if you need a printed copy, please reach out to your child’s teacher). Below, you will find directions on how to access the lessons, how you can communicate with teachers, as well as FAQs we anticipate you may have during this unprecedented national crisis (including questions around food distribution and technology needs).
We, of course, understand that these are unprecedented times and we understand that each family will face its own set of challenges. The lessons that your teachers are designing are intended to maintain contact with course content, not to overwhelm students with large volumes of independent coursework. We will continue to provide updates as they become available and remain receptive to any feedback you may have during this time.
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor,
Superintendent of Schools