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Schools

Teachers In This NJ District Are Staying Home Even Though Schools Are Open

South Orange Junior High School
South Orange Junior High School Photo Credit: https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/

One Essex County district has opted to let its teachers work from home while students are scheduled to continue hybrid learning.

South Orange-Maplewood district officials say teachers will start instructing from home due to “unsafe building conditions” starting Wednesday, NJ.com reports.

Students came back to their classrooms Jan. 19 after having participated in fully remote learning since last March.

Meanwhile, the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) is working with officials to form a solution with the district, which enrolls about 7,200 students.

“The superintendent’s office is meeting with SOMEA leadership to come to a beneficial resolution to their concerns and we will contact district families if there are any changes to school schedules,” a spokesperson for district Superintendent Ronald Taylor told the outlet.

Several potential health problems — including lack of ventilation and vaccine shortages — were pointed out in a five-page letter to the school board drafted by teachers’ union president Rocio Lopez.

“We will continue to educate passionately but will do so from our homes until such time as temperatures are moderate enough to avoid bone-chilling working conditions in violation of minimum temperature standards and vaccines are made available to educators,” Lopez wrote in the letter, according to the outlet.

Lopez also stated that a teacher who was not named had been admonished as a result of alerting parents that several health improvement suggestions for her classroom had not been satisfied.

“We are nearing February and already vaccines are available to high-risk individuals, so a return to school is on the horizon. But to do so as numbers climb, variant strains are spreading, and under conditions which render actual instruction less effective, is not just fatuous but reckless. We will continue to do what we do best — provide passionate instruction — from the safety of our homes,” Lopez wrote in the letter, according to the report.

At least 10 new in-school outbreaks of the virus had been reported as of Tuesday, and one unspecified Essex County school was connected to a total of 92 cases, the report says.

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