We are parents, students, educators, school staff, tax payers and concerned individuals within the South Orange-Maplewood School District. We are pushing for a safe return to our public schools for in-person learning.
Enough is enough. Health experts are clear. Covid in-school transmission rates are extremely low. Moreover, students and teachers are safer in school buildings with basic mitigation than they are going about their everyday lives in our community. Vaccinations are now widely available to our entire school staff, making much of our previously relied on guidance obsolete.
The district’s existing return-to-school plan has not been modified since summer 2020, while experts’ understanding of this disease and its mitigation has advanced dramatically.
Reopening school buildings is critical for our children’s social, emotional, and educational development. Every student has been affected this year. Prolonged school closure has caused loss of learning opportunities, academic setbacks, a striking decline in social and emotional health, and for some, developmental regression that will require years of compensatory efforts to overcome.
To mitigate and repair the harm that our children have experienced, SOMA For Safe Return to School demands the following:
In light of new guidance we are further pushing the district reconsider the following existing policies that impede safe in-person learning for the greatest number of students:
Spacing. Moving from six feet to three feet as sufficient with other mitigations in place per the CDC and NJDOH.
Cohorts. A more aggressive plan to accelerate the return to in-person learning. Specifically, combining existing cohorts to increase in-person instruction time.
Outside learning. With better weather, exploring opportunities for outside learning.
Cleaning. Reserving a full weekday of cleaning is unnecessary. Playgrounds should be open for use during recess.
Snacks/Lunch Students safely eat lunch in their schools every day all over the state, including in our very own buildings during the YMCA childcare program. Adopt existing practices to create a safe opportunity for lunch in school.