District News & Announcements
The District commissioned architect firm, Spiezle, as a third-party vendor to inspect units in all of our schools and also invited staff on these building visits to ensure everyone is aware of the work that was completed and the remaining areas that work still need to be completed.
The District communication shared with the SOMSD community on Mon. 1/18 [https://bit.ly/35Qhgk5], slides 20 – 21 provided high-level data from our 3rd party architect inspector regarding the facilities upgrades work performed at our District schools. As a follow-up and as shared with the public, a full detailed assessment report would follow, please click here to access the report:
The CDC guidelines for operating schools during COVID-19 state that schools should consider several strategies to encourage behaviors to reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, masks, social distancing, signs, cleaning and disinfection as well as ventilation scenarios.
- Signage is placed throughout the buildings reminding everyone to wear PPE, wash hands, and social distance.
- Hand sanitizing stations were installed in classrooms and hallways.
- PPE was purchased for staff and students.
- Plexi-glass barriers are installed in offices and some classrooms (i.e. science labs).
- The district directed an HVAC vendor to service and order filters all units and district staff was charged to clean and install the filters.
- The district’s architect was commissioned to inspect the systems and provide a report showing the status of the work. The last inspection was conducted the week of January 11th. Since the inspection, the district continued to perform maintenance on all HVAC units; therefore the status of work reported in the attached report does not reflect the work that was completed from the time of inspection.
- Schools were notified that spaces that do not have functioning mechanical units should have windows open when the room is occupied.
South Orange & Maplewood School District
January 12, 2021
Dear SOMSD Families:
I am writing to apprise you of an important shift in our District’s phased reopening plan. On tomorrow January 13 our teachers return to our school buildings to prepare for our hybrid reopening.
We are happy to again confirm that we will indeed welcome students back to our schools on Tuesday, January 19, as part of our Phase 3 re-entry stage. As things stand, we plan to open our school doors to PreK - 2, 6th and 9th-grade students; this is in addition to English Language Learners and Special Services Students (details will be sent under separate cover from our Special Services office to impacted families).
After conferring with our local towns’ health departments and internal district health professionals, the District has decided that we will extend the duration of the Phase 3 re-entry stage and pause the launch of Phase 4 (which was set to begin on January 25). It goes without saying that it is our responsibility to plan a phased reopening based on our judgment of what is safest for our school’s children, families and staff while also understanding the social-emotional toll that these circumstances have had on us all. We are also aware that COVID continues to be a very serious issue in our local community, state, and country.
The goal of this extension is to successfully launch our hybrid approach and provide in-person instruction for the families who selected this option. This change:
- Will allow for a smaller population of students/staff to be in our schools and also provide additional time to monitor Covid-transmission rates (if any in our schools), community and region.
- Allows us the opportunity to closely monitor the protocols put in place, in case a modification is needed to continue to ensure the health and safety of students and staff to be in school.
In early February, based on local COVID-transmission rates and the Regional Risk Level in the county (currently we are in Code Orange, which is high, however, schools can remain open for in-person instruction with mitigation strategies in place) we will revisit our plan. At that point, we will make a determination to transition to Phase 4. Phase 4 implementation will occur with a revised staggered grade-level re-entry, with fewer grade levels introduced at each stage
Updates: Phase 3 - January 19 - February 5 (estimated based on available information):
- Pre-K - 2, 6th, 9th and Cohort C (ELL/Special Services) students will begin school following the schedule that was shared with families yesterday
- The District will continue with an AA/BB approach (2 days in-person (4 hours), 3 days virtual)
- All remaining grades will continue with their virtual learning schedule until further notice.
The instructional schedule for this week will remain the same (the only change is that the week of 1/25 will no longer introduce new grade levels to the buildings). Click here to view the 1/11 school reopening letter: http://bit.ly/39jcrAG. Additional information will be shared in this Friday’s District newsletter to the SOMSD Community.
Please note due to technical issues, elementary and middle school cohort designation letters will be uploaded to the PowerSchool parent portal tomorrow morning.
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools
January 11, 2021
Hello SOMSD Families,
Next week students will begin returning to our schools and classrooms for in-person instruction. Starting today and tomorrow, teachers have the option of voluntarily returning to their classrooms to teach and begin classroom preparation. On Wednesday, January 13, teachers will be back in their school buildings to teach virtually from their classrooms and to prepare for students returning for hybrid instruction.
In preparation for the implementation of our hybrid model, this week’s instructional schedule will have some changes. See below:
- Wednesday, 1/13 - District-wide Asynchronous Day: No live virtual instruction will take place, self-guided student instruction will be provided via Canvas and may include pre-recorded video lessons, independent game-based learning tasks, or pre-assigned work/assessments.
- Thursday & Friday, 1/14 - 1/15: No afternoon conferences will be held, your child’s teacher will provide more information on your child’s schedule for this time.
These modifications will allow time for teachers to reacclimate to their classrooms, learn new procedures and protocols for entering their buildings, test their technology and to begin classroom set-up for returning students. The school-level schedules below provide additional details on the re-entry schedule.
Also, please note, that by the end of the day tomorrow, Tuesday, 1/12, your child’s cohort placement designation letter will be uploaded to your PowerSchool parent portal. As shared in previous communications, if you need help accessing or have forgotten your login information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reopening School: Hybrid Model for all SOMSD Schools:
More than 98% of SOMSD families submitted their preference for return to school instruction. At the elementary school level (PreK - 8) the breakdown is: 64% hybrid / 36% virtual; at CHS the breakdown is 61% hybrid / 39% virtual. In the hybrid model, most class sizes will average 6 - 10 students per class (possibly lower for classes that have smaller class sizes).
Students will wear face masks while in school with appropriate breaks depending on the age as outlined in our reopening plan (gaiters, bandanas, and masks with valves are not permitted). Please review the District’s Return to School FAQs for reminders on face masks and other important questions: [https://bit.ly/SOMSDFAQS]
Building Reopening & Re-entry Schedule:
As shared in previous communications, Phase 3 re-entry will begin with hybrid students in grades PreK - 2, 6th and 9th returning in small groups starting on January 19; the following week, our remaining elementary and HS students will begin their return to in-person instruction. See below for a detailed re-entry schedule for elementary, middle, and high school students for the weeks of January 11 - 25.
- Cohort A: *Students by last name A-L, 2 days in person (Mon/Tues)
- Cohort B: *Students by last name M - Z, 2 days in person (Wed/Thurs)
- Cohort C: ELL/Special Services Students, 4 days a week (Mon. - Thurs.)
*Based on # of students per cohort, sibling preference and other variables, cohorts by schools will not always follow alphabetical order conventions for splits