The South Orange-Maplewood School District is asking parents to respond to a investigation on indoor masking, while announcing the imminent removal of plastic barriers and partitions in schools in the district.
“After recent discussions with our Ministries of Health and the District Health and Wellness Sub-Committee, we can share that on Monday, March 7, our plan to remove barriers in classrooms will go from l before, in addition, we will also remove the table barriers from our cafeterias. (on Monday, Feb. 28, outdoor masking became optional),” read a notice from the district on March 4 announcing the investigation. “We also discussed the important indoor masking decision, as well as the latest data and information we have.”
Previously, the district announced that indoor masking would continue through the April vacation, when the district would reevaluate. In February, a parent group called on the district to end the indoor mask mandate sooner, as well as remove the barriers. These parents flooded the Board of Education’s public comment sessions with appeals on February 24.
Parents who want to respond to the survey should act quickly: The district said it plans to “share the results of our survey and next steps no later than the week of March 7.” Families can click https://bit.ly/3CeZ4zA until March 8 to complete the survey.
See the District’s full March 4 communication here:
March 4, 2022
Dear Parents/Guardians of the South Orange & Maplewood School District:
Click the link to participate in SOMSD’s “Indoor Mask Option” survey for parents/guardians: bit.ly/3CeZ4zA
The South Orange & Maplewood School District is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of our students, staff, and families. Since our last follow-up with the District community regarding the Governor’s recent announcement to lift the statewide school mask mandate, the CDC and NJDOH have provided additional guidance regarding both this important topic as well as general mitigation strategies for schools (especially indoors).
To date, we have received new data regarding the vaccination rates of our student population. Currently, the 5-11 year old population is over 70% fully vaccinated and our 12-17 and 18+ population are over 94% and 95% fully vaccinated respectively (fully vaccinated means that one individual received both doses of the covid vaccine). Please be aware that while COVID infections of our students and staff have decreased significantly, we are still impacted by cases (several cases this week and last week and a recent outbreak in one of our elementary schools). For your protection and safety, we continue to strongly recommend that you get vaccinated at this time.
After recent discussions with our Ministries of Health and the District Health and Wellness Sub-Committee, we can share that on Monday, March 7, our plan to remove barriers in classrooms will go from before, in addition, we will also remove the table barriers from our cafeterias (on Monday February 28, outdoor masking became optional). We also discussed the important interior masking decision, as well as the latest data and information we have.
Why It Matters – Optional Mask Survey:
As we review the new guidelines, we believe it is important to add the voice of our community to this important discussion; as such, we seek the advice of Youour parent/guardian community.
With the number of Omicron infections thankfully falling as rapidly as they have increased, and with evolving CDC and NJDOH health guidelines, as well as low CALI status for Essex County and SOMA, the Ongoing discussions with our public health experts focus on the topic of relaxation. COVID mitigation strategies.
- We have of course heard parents passionately defending both sides of this discussion, those who are urging SOMSD to make masks optional… while others have reached out to us to express genuine concerns about what this could mean for parents. vulnerable members of our schools and their families.
- We also fully recognize that outside of our parent community, this decision also affects our staff and students, so we are sending a separate survey to hear those voices as well.
- Please know that while we appreciate the responses to this survey, this is not an “election” where the highest number of votes determines final plans…but it does serve as a useful data point to consider as we are continuing this work.
What a potential switch to “mask optional” will mean:
One of the mitigation strategies to abandon if/when we make the decision to move to an “optional masked” environment is contact tracing by nurses and school administrators. Operationally and logistically, this NJDOH recommendation is no longer viable. This means:
- Families and school communities would only receive general notice if a lab-confirmed Covid-positive case is reported within their school community; and schools will no longer direct the quarantine of unvaccinated close contacts;
- Schools will no longer recommend post-travel quarantine for unvaccinated individuals;
- We will continue the practice of isolating those who test positive for COVID and those with symptoms consistent with COVID while awaiting a test result; and
- School nurses and local health departments will continue to monitor and investigate cases and the DOH will notify the school district in the event of an outbreak.
While we understand that it is not possible to create a 100% “COVID-proof” environment, we fully support our Ministries of Health in their public health messaging on disease prevention and ongoing reminders for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated (and boosted) to protect themselves. and everyone in our community. We plan to share the results of our investigation and next steps no later than the week of March 7.
Click on the link – https://bit.ly/3CeZ4zA – to respond to our survey on mask protocols until March 8. As always, we thank you for your contribution, your time and your attention.
South Orange and Maplewood School District