Hello SOMSD Community,
We continue to prioritize keeping our students in school as much as possible for a full day of in-person learning. Based on the most recent COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) Report released by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), Essex County as well as the majority of NJ, is now considered in high community transmission (orange).
According to the NJDOH for schools that choose not to institute a universal masking policy, it is recommended that schools should strongly consider universal masking during CALI score of high (orange) – for all students and staff, especially if there is difficulty incorporating other layered prevention strategies (e.g., adequate spacing of students). Furthermore, the NJDOH also clarifies that – during an outbreak or a general increase in cases, schools should consult with their local health departments as to whether short-term universal masking or masking in affected classrooms should be required to control the outbreak/increase in cases.
Currently, due to several classroom outbreaks, two of our school communities, Clinton Elementary and South Mountain Elementary (big school) have been required to shift to a mandatory short-term “universal masking” indoors/buses for all staff and students.
While the NJDOH and the local health departments strongly recommend “universal masking” during high COVID community transmission, as a District, we are not instituting a District-wide return to mandatory “universal masking.” This is due to the fact that the outbreaks identified by our local departments of health were contained to the respective schools and/ or classrooms and the appropriate actions have been taken.
However, with the rise in outbreaks in our District over the past two weeks and the new information from the state, we are strongly recommending that all students/staff consider masking while indoors and on the bus. Based on the information we’ve provided, we are leaving it at the discretion of parents/staff to determine the best decision for themselves and their families and will respect the choices made by our students and staff.
Presently, mandatory indoor masking will be required for the following cases:
- During large indoor gatherings including, but not limited to, large assemblies, plays, art shows, concerts, upcoming moving up ceremonies;
- For individuals who are returning to school after COVID-positive isolation on days 6-10 (mandatory)
- As recommended or required by the DOH (i.e., significant increased transmission, outbreak)
The current mitigation strategies will continue to be followed:
- The district will maintain our cleaning and sanitization protocols in all classrooms and buildings.
- We will follow the recommendations from the Department of Health for ventilation and airflow in the classroom, optimize distancing (when possible), and as the weather warms up will begin the use of outdoor space if possible.
We encourage you to visit the District’s Covid-19 dashboard [https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/coviddata/] for a snapshot of weekly reported Covid cases (as a reminder the dashboard only accounts for lab confirmed tests). Moving forward we will also include two new fields to the Dashboard to inform the greater community of major outbreaks or school closures across the District:
- Temporary Return to Schoolwide “Universal Masking” – Will provide a brief summary of school buildings who have been required to shift to short-term “universal masking” indoors/buses.
- Temporary School Closures: Will share update on any school that is required to close for a period of time (and shift entirely to virtual instruction) due to rising Covid cases.
In addition, later next week we will update our current 2021-22 School Year & Covid webpage to reflect the District’s most current Covid guidelines and protocols, as well as include FAQs for common questions that we have received from our parent community.
As always, the health and safety of everyone in our school buildings is our top priority. As such, we are closely following the recommendations of our state and local health officials. As these recommendations change, we will adjust our health and safety protocols accordingly. It remains possible that we may need to re-implement our mask policy if the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in our schools or community increase.
We thank you for your support and understanding.
|We understand the level of concern regarding COVID-19; and we encourage parents and students to continue following the CDC and NJDOH promoted safeguards, such as
South Orange & Maplewood School District