South Orange-Maplewood Public Schools reopened for in-person learning last Tuesday, but it did not go well, according to South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) President Rocio Lopez.
In an email sent to district administration and the BOE on Monday, Lopez writes that “following a reasonable effort in good faith to provide hybrid instruction to our students, I write to advise you of the necessity of SOMEA to return to all- virtual instruction effective Wednesday, January 27, 2021, given the unsafe conditions and ineffectiveness of the district’s current operations.”
Lopez says teachers, school staff, and students have been asked “to endure deplorable conditions, such as temperatures which average 35 to 60 degrees all day, as windows need to be open in an attempt to offset the inefficient, antiquated ventilation systems in our buildings.”
Lopez adds that teachers have been “admonished by administration for having windows open, as the temperatures are freezing or near freezing in classrooms, and ordered to close windows in danger to themselves and students in the classroom. Teachers and staff are already suffering the ill-effects of these freezing conditions, complaining of aches, chills and coughs, weakening their immune systems to attack by COVID-19.”
The district shared its assessment of the reopening in a newsletter to families, stating:
This week, we reopened schools for in-person learning to a subset of our student population. It was great to see students back in our buildings, and our District’s senior leadership staff was able to visit all of our schools during the first two days of school reopening.
Were things perfect, no, however, we anticipated that similar to our first-week of virtual learning there would be a learning curve and unexpected concerns to navigate. In reviewing the past week, there were operational/logistic concerns as well as technology issues that schools had to address. Operational and logistical concerns are being addressed and we are working with school building principals to continue to trouble-shoot and remedy any facilities issues.
South Orange-Maplewood, like Montclair, has seen division in their respective towns between groups for and against a return to in-person learning.