Save Our Young Learners—Reopen Our Schools

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Dr. Taylor and Board Members,

Thank you for the effort you have been putting into reopening South Orange-Maplewood schools safely after over nine long months during which many children have suffered emotionally and fallen behind academically in our district.

At this late stage and with so many setbacks, our request is that you stay the course in the face of opposition, and open to the greatest extent possible for all students—with in-person opportunities five days a week for elementary and special education students by the planned date of January 19, 2021.

The science overwhelmingly suggests that young children are not driving transmission of COVID-19, and schools can be safe places for staff and students of all ages, even with spread in the greater community. This is particularly true with simple, low-tech precautions—for ex. masking, face shields, limiting close contact, cohorts, and opening windows for ventilation.

Many local public and private schools, following CDC and state guidelines, have been running for months without major issue. Notably, the YMCA is operating smoothly in our school buildings. Even when cases do occur, the testing, tracing and quarantining process used in other districts has been proven sufficient in limiting in-school spread. 

To ignore all of this evidence is to further children and families’ suffering with no rational justification.

Neither the CDC nor the State of New Jersey mandates the additional air filtration projects that have held up our schools’ reopening. We believe the existing guidelines, which we already exceed, are highly effective, as evidenced by the low number of outbreaks traced to thousands of schools across the state.

While we sympathize with fears of the unknown, we do not want to be driven by fear when making such important decisions. Many of us can no longer afford to delay this return to school any further and will be forced to make difficult choices for the coming year. We must do our best to make special accommodations for staff and continue to offer a virtual option, but we cannot ignore the many in our community who need in-person education now.

Please push forward, follow the science, and prioritize public education and a safe reopening. Thank you.

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