Dear SOMSD Family,
We hope this correspondence finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. As we shared late last week, a facility walkthrough and review of some of our schools resulted in some concerning discoveries as it relates to our ventilation upgrades.
We were unable to provide more specificity at the time because a detailed investigation of the concerns was needed. After a thorough review, our investigation revealed that while much work towards our reopening was completed (removal of carpet, installation of hand sanitizer stations, mitigation signage, plexiglass installation, etc.) an important component was not completed despite having been verified as successfully finalized. We are aware that sharing this information may create additional concerns among our staff/families, however, in this case, we believe transparency is vital in earning our community’s confidence. We are unable to provide details related to personnel matters; however, please know that we hold our administration to the highest level of accountability and integrity, as we view ourselves as servant leaders to our community. We also preface this message by acknowledging responsibility in our chain of command including oversight that ultimately ends with me as the Chief School Administrator/Superintendent of Schools.
Specifically, during our October 19, Board of Education meeting, after verification from our Facilities Department lead, we shared that our univents (unit-ventilation boxes in each classroom) had been updated with filters with a Merv 16 rating. Unfortunately, our extensive inspection and investigation revealed that this was simply not true. Filters were not installed as had been reported throughout all District classrooms. In fact, the vendor was not contacted until after verification paperwork was submitted to the District. In order to prepare for students/staff to return to our buildings, every uninvent (approximately 1000) will need to be reviewed and reassessed to ensure all units have been updated; additionally, the univents are only capable of using a filter with a maximum Merv 8 rating.
We have had extensive conversations with our vendor and have been informed that the filters are inexpensive and can be quickly installed once received. However, as you can imagine, the filters that we seek are in great demand. Our vendor believes we can complete our project, which also includes repairing motors and blowers in each univent as needed, in between six-to-eight weeks. Please remember that the repair/replacement of our HVAC systems is a part of our planned district-wide construction improvement project.
To that end, the estimated timing of this work resets our potential reopening, which will now take place on approximately January 19. The preparation timeline for this reopening will also include action steps that ensure increased monitoring and communication of our progress. Given the upcoming holidays and the difficulties many are facing (and will face due to staff quarantines), this date also allows for personal quarantining for any in our school community who travel for the winter break without the need for substitutes and the accompanying disruption to educational services.
We will also be closing our return to school parental survey and relaunching it at a date closer to our opening (prior to winter break). All parents will have the opportunity to resubmit their hybrid/virtual preference at a time much closer to our reopening. Additionally, our Academic Town Hall events will be rescheduled to December.
As we have stated repeatedly, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we are prepared to be nimble during a time that is more fluid than ever. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools
THE PARENTING CENTER AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PTAs PRESENT:
SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL/ACADEMIC CRISIS SUPPORT SPEAKER SERIES
SCREEN TIME & SOCIAL MEDIA DURING THE PANDEMIC
Thursday, October 8, 2020 | 7:30pm – 9pm
JOIN WEBEX MEETING:
- Event #: 173 983 1858 | Event PW: epVsPnKd47
JOIN BY PHONE:
- Call-in #: 408-418-9388
- Event ID: 173 983 1858 Event PW: 37877653
The South Orange & Maplewood School District celebrates the positive impact that Hispanic Americans have left on our country. We especially want to recognize and celebrate all of our staff, students, and community members of Hispanic/Latin ancestry.
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America," according to the official government website. It takes place from September 15-October 15 every year.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. In Presidential Proclamation 3869, available via the Library of Congress, President Johnson wrote, “Wishing to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition, and having in mind the fact that our five Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the fifteenth of September and the Republic of Mexico on the sixteenth, the Congress by House Joint Resolution 1299, has requested the President to issue annually a proclamation designating the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.”
The observation was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.