South Orange-Maplewood Schools To Move To Remote Learning ‘Indefinitely’

South Orange, NJ – South Orange and Maplewood public schools will shift to remote learning “indefinitely,” the school district announced Monday evening. The news came after the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association stated that teachers would not return to school, citing unsafe conditions.

“SOMEA finds itself in the repeated and forlorn position of having to advise you of the necessity to return to all-virtual instruction effective Tuesday, February 16, 2021 through March 15, 2021,” the SOMEA letter states.

In a letter to the South Orange and Maplewood public schools community, the district said a “disagreement over 34 workspaces, more than a dozen of which were brought to our attention as recently as Saturday,” caused the district to make its decision.

“We are disappointed that our Phased reopening plan has again been disrupted. As we will lack the faculty necessary to staff the buildings, the District will resume virtual-only instruction indefinitely pending discussion with SOMEA’s representatives and consultation with our labor counsel as to remedies that will facilitate the resumption of our hybrid reopening plan. Central office employees will also work virtually.”

South Orange-Maplewood Schools had reopened briefly for in-person learning in January, but returned to all virtual days later, due to what South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) President Rocio Lopez described then as unsafe conditions and ineffectiveness of the district’s current operations, including “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.”

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  1. You both need to read up on unions, historically. You should start with Wikipedia and go from there. Darn shame how you both trash the unions who basically created the middle class in America. Just shameful.

  2. LL— We are entitled to our view and opinions. But just so you know, I know all about the history of unions and how it created the middle class in America early in the 20th century. I actually support the idea of organized labor. No “boss” should use their employees or exploit them for their own profit. I’m actually more on the side of labor to insure employees are treated fairly.
    I have been an union employee in the past as well as a non-union employee over the course of my career.
    My problem with some (and it’s the more “militant” ones right now) they are being unreasonable and only able to see their side. Education is first and foremost about serving the children; not about serving the employees. The employees deserve fair treatment, fair salaries and all the other things union fight for. However in this situation the balance is a bit different. It really is affecting the kids and the administrations seem to have put forth the reasonable (no not perfect) covid protective accommodations in place to have some in person learning for the most vulnerable in this situation (namely elementary kids and SPED kids).
    Compromise is not always a bad thing when the situation dictates. Not caving, just reasonable compromise for the common good (namely in this situation the students).
    This is where unions get a bad wrap, when they go too far with their agenda to protect employees and lose site of the big picture. It does appear selfish and entitled to many. Again, my opinion. And don’t forget, I’m not anti-teacher; I think they are wonderful; Just about fairness in this situation.

  3. I can’t disagree with what you’ve said. It might appear to be entitled, however, if only the district was forthcoming this could have been headed off at the pass. They were not. Remember Brian Ford’s letter to the editor where he stated the administration was not telling us what we need to know? They appeared in front of the court without any documentation regarding ventilation even though they told the union it was all done and everything was fine. Had they brought it up to the court they probably could have been cited for something or other, but I’m not a lawyer. So they omitted the docs and therefore everything was dismissed and finally declared moot at the end.

    Yes, it’s affecting the kids. Everyone agrees with that. But why not be forthcoming and show us what you really have, come to the table with the truth, and we can then work from there. No, Dr. Ponds tried to pull a fast one and got caught by the courts. So now here we are, in limbo. Frank asked, what have we learned. Well how about the truth matters, teachers aren’t stupid or sheep, and the union will stand up for them when it’s right?

    So even though I agree with 99% of what you said, the one thing about “reasonable Covid accommodations..” is not actually accurate from the documentation they have provided. But you did say, “..seems to have..” so it is qualifying and I take no issue with that. The truth Dr. Ponds! “.. you can’t handle the truth..” Try us.

  4. Well I guess I don’t know the specifics of your (MEA’s) dealings with Dr. Ponds regarding the ventilation issue, but from what was displayed on the district’s website about the color coded rooms in each building regarding ventilation (assessed by a consultant from what I understand), I don’t know what else regarding ventilation issues can be done at this point.
    I guess the union has more info they want the district to prove? With the student population less than during normal times (opt outs, hybrid scheduling), it would seem (though I admit I don’t know exact numbers of students it would involve, but Ponds does) the Green classrooms could accommodate most of the students? Not use the Red rooms?
    BTW– today the Dept. of Education in conjunction with CDC put out a paper: Reopening Schools. Here’s the link (if you haven’t already seen it):

  5. Yikes, 22 pages? How about some bullet points in a 3 page document? Nonetheless, I read what I could wade through. So here is the issue the union has as I see it. I’m not privy to any more than anyone else. The color coded rooms, as I understand it, were not updated since October yet a new date was put on it. Even if that is not entirely correct, where did the color coded information come from? How did they test, who tested and why did some rooms fail? You can’t just say, oh look this room is green and this one is red. Without proper documentation it’s meaningless. It’s non professionals, i.e. the BA and the superintendent along with a union rep walking around saying.. Oh this room looks good and the windows open so let’s give it a green star. Did anyone do an air quality test? A ventilation exchange rate test? Probably not and therefore the union balked.

    I just heard a long interview with Dr. Fauci. He said that even though vaccines were preferable it’s unrealistic to think every teacher will be vaccinated before opening. But he also said that is the goal. In light of that ventilation, distancing, mask wearing and hand washing were paramount. Open windows in the snow, rain and freezing temps do not proper ventilation make. Another thing, are all the handwashing sinks working? I remember being in some schools where there was no water coming out of the faucets.

    So let’s just see a spreadsheet of ventilation documentation, functioning sinks, masks and proper use thereof, social distancing requirements and anything else the CDC recommends. I don’t think the union would have a problem if they can show their members that due diligence has been done and it’s safe to return. As of yet all we have is a lawsuit that was dismissed on each and every point. And thanks for the link, SnT

  6. You’re welcome. Thanks for explaining the union’s sticking points regarding the documentation they would like to see regarding the ventilation issues. However CDC and Dept of Ed recommendations do state that fans, open doors, and open windows for ventilation in older buildings ( slide 6 in the document noted above) is ok; not best but sufficient for now….

  7. ll, unions can cross over the line into ridiculousness sometimes. Like they are here in Montclair. The MEA looks out for their own and to pretend like they look out for the students is just utter nonsense. They are out for the ones who pay their paychecks.

    And, let’s be real. The union is hypocritical every day that their own go in to coach inside these “unsafe” schools.

  8. Yes. But don’t forget the parents. It’s a regular parade of self-interests and spin. Remind me which sports practice distance, wear masks, have spectators and the really great part…have ventilation!!

    Well, it doesn’t matter because the vaccine effectiveness just dropped in half. This makes more sense as the annual flu vaccines optimistically shoot for 50% effectiveness. A significant difference is the downside. The good news is we have a lot more time to fix the ventilation issues….like until 2022.

  9. I forgot to ask…the MPSD is doing more than just diagnostic testing of athletes/coaches, right?
    Or are we, progressive Montclair, just waiting for an unmistakably obvious outbreak? Like with the teams of the bordering hamlets?

    We will underestimate this virus all the way to passing 1MM. It’s a lock.

  10. I saw that SnT regarding windows. I just wonder if that was nationwide and perhaps focusing on Florida where windows could be open pretty much all year around. Is there a test for air exchange rates in a room. I thought I read that somewhere that they could test that. That would be great if they could and present that as valid documentation. Or just get the teachers and staff vaccinated already and be done with it. 20M seems a lot to pay for proper ventilation for all the schools. Unless, of course, Dr. Ponds puts his hand in the pie of 120B for schools of the 1.9T Covid relief bill. Dave Astor perhaps thinks the search committee is already chomping at the bit. With a 5 year contract I’m not so sure. I do like your opinions and slant on things. They have given me pause and are thought provoking. Hopefully in a few months this will all be water under the bridge.

    And PmF, your dislike for unions has been duly noted. I think a few times. Charter schools don’t have a union, right?

  11. LL: You’re kidding right? about florida…
    The document from the Dept. of Ed. is the National Dept. of Ed.
    EPA has lots of information about IAQ (indoor air quality) if that’s what you’re getting at regarding measurement of air exchange, I’ve heard.
    But concerning schools and ventilation of the buildings, this is the latest, the CDC/Dept.Education guidance piece. Specifically this on ventilation:
    So it seems that maybe the district’s color-coded rooms are enough to qualify after
    Wasn’t it conducted by a consultant (in Oct.)?

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