South-Orange Maplewood Sixth and Ninth Graders to Return for Hybrid Monday

A judge entered an Order compelling South Orange and Maplewood 6th and 9th-grade teachers to report for in-person instruction as early as Thursday, March 18, to rooms assigned by the District that were previously identified as having passed SOMEA’s unique standards. The District, in its communication to parents, states that it made this offer to South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) several weeks ago, but it had been refused.

“We are thankful that the Court was willing to Order the return for our 6th and 9th-grade students and families,” the communication from the district states.

The District will prepare for the resumption of in-person learning for 6th and 9th graders which will begin on Monday, March 22.

“This is an important and critical step in the right direction as we resume in-person instruction. The legal significance of the Court’s Order is to ensure that our community is not faced with another work district-wide interference with the return of Phase 3 in-person learning. Another court date is scheduled for April 19. We will continue to work toward greater availability of in-person instruction over the coming weeks as we target April 19 for our next phase.” – South Orange & Maplewood School District

The South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) released a statement today, saying it was pleased with the decision by Chancery Court Judge Alper and looks forward to a safe return.

“In the decision, it was affirmed that the association’s actions to remain remote did not count as a strike, and indeed, Jude Alper agreed with SOMEA that its members ‘are working harder than ever.’ In addition to denying the district’s requests for injunctive relief, the Court ordered the district to “assign classrooms to sixth and ninth grade teachers” based on SOMEA’s determination of fit classrooms following its walkthroughs, and that the district comply with the terms of its Sidebar Agreement with SOMEA. The association’s members look forward to seeing their students and colleagues.”

“This is a win for the association, the community, and the district,” said SOMEA President Rocio Lopez. “This has never been about a challenge to the district; this was about having our concerns and ideas heard, respected, and able to put into action so that schools could open safely.”

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