As a Matter of Fact!

SOMSD Newsletter | Vol 2. Issue 11 | March 19, 2021

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Superintendent's Message

Hello SOMSD Community,

As a District, this month, we celebrate women's contributions to history, culture and society. Throughout our schools and community, various events are being held to celebrate both women’s history, present, and future. As we celebrate I want to highlight and celebrate two sports teams at Columbia High school. The CHS, Cougars Girls' Basketball team, and the CHS Cougars Girls' Fencing Team. The Cougars Girls' Basketball team finished their season undefeated with a 12-0 record and were the Liberty Division Champions as part of the Super Essex Conference. While the Cougars Girls' Fencing team who had a phenomenal season, also completed their season undefeated, 9-0, making it their first unbeaten season since their 2015-16 campaign in which they went 11-0.

On Monday, March 15, we welcomed our K-2 students back to school for hybrid instruction. I as well as members of our senior leadership team had the opportunity to visit the elementary schools and it was wonderful to see the smiles on our students' faces. On Tuesday, March 16, we shared some further updates with the community [click here for the full letter], regarding the court Order compelling SOMEA 6th and 9th-grade teachers to report for in-person instruction as early as Thursday, March 18, 2021 (based on rooms that were already deemed fit). Our 6th and 9th graders who have chosen hybrid-instruction will return to schools starting on Monday, March 22 and we look forward to having this subset of students back. Additional updates have been shared with this parent community from building principals and the District.

On Wednesday, during his daily COVID briefing, Governor Murphy noted the one-year mark of the pandemic and expounded on how it has changed lives with a shutdown, and acknowledged how schools and districts have moved and continue to move forward to meet the pandemic challenges. Most importantly, he made the announcement that for fall 2021 he expects New Jersey schools will be open in person five days a week.

Lastly, we are of course thinking of next school year and the design of our schools. A lot of our decision-making will depend on the possible shifting of State requirements. While the Governor has shared his early expectations, we still await guidelines from the state. So for example, if ‘Virtual Learning’ remains a mandate, then we will do all we can to identify specific all-virtual teachers (at least at the Elementary Level) for those students to allow for possibly returning to as close to a normal schedule for those families who select in person. Additional parental surveys will assist in our preparation.

It has been a long road, however, we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. As we have continued to share the District is committed and believes it is necessary to have our children return to schools, and we will continue to work hard to ensure that we are able to fulfill that promise.

Educationally yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

Superintendent of Schools

All Return to School Updates & Resources

All updates and resources regarding the District's January 2021 return to in-person instruction.

Next Phased-In Re-Entry Date, April 19 & Important Deadlines

SOMSD Families,

As we prepare and continue to plan for a Phase 4 potential return on April 19, we want to remind families of some important information and upcoming deadlines.

Among them, we are receiving a lot of questions from families on why we've chosen this return date. It is two weeks after Spring Break, which will serve as a quarantine period for all staff, families/students after potential travel. In addition, traditionally our building’s heating systems are taken offline on April 15th, which may allow for us to utilize many more rooms in our schools. Therefore allowing for the return of families who are selecting an in-person hybrid experience for their children.

Please note this means that following spring break, all students, across all grade levels, in all schools will have virtual/remote instruction from April 5 - 16; in-person hybrid instruction for students will begin again on April 19 (this includes all Phase 3 students, Pre-K - 2, 6 and 9 as well as any additional grade levels the District will announce for tentative Phase 4 staggered re-entry).

Any return will follow our staggered re-entry strategy and we will provide an update regarding the next grade-levels that will be allowed to return for hybrid in-person instruction as soon as possible. View information on the website.

Parents/Guardian Deadlines & Reminders:

  • The FINAL request deadline for change from virtual to hybrid instruction is March 25 (see below for more information)
  • Any parent/guardian choosing to switch to hybrid instruction must provide an e-signature via Parent Agreement Letter of Compliance with COVID-19 Guidelines in the PowerSchool parent portal []
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Reminder: Parent Agreement Letter of Compliance with COVID-19 Guidelines E-Signature Required

Any family who submitted a change request from virtual to hybrid instruction for their child by the stated deadline (and received approval confirmation from their building principal) must electronically sign the Parent Agreement Letter of Compliance for each child attending in-person instruction.

If you do not agree to comply with COVID-19 Guidelines and the agreement is not electronically signed prior to your child's return to school, they will not be allowed in the school buildings and must continue their instruction virtually.

The Parent Agreement Letter of Compliance with COVID-19 Guidelines must be completed utilizing the district’s PowerSchool Parent Portal. You must use a computer or a mobile device web browser to complete the form. The PowerSchool iOS and Android PowerSchool applications are not compatible with our online forms.


The SOMSD Covid-19 Dashboard will be updated weekly and will track and reflect positive cases of both virtual and in-person staff and students

Student Highlights!

Long-Range Facilities Updates: Four Elementary Schools Approved to Bid Process

The District submitted six elementary school construction plans to the state for approval, we are happy to announce that we received approvals for four locations. Approvals to bid additions and renovations were received for Clinton, Jefferson, Seth Boyden, and Tuscan elementary schools. On March 11, construction bids were advertised for Clinton Elementary and Jefferson Elementary schools. Subsequent bids for the remaining two schools will be advertised in the coming weeks. Construction plans for Marshall, South Mountain Elementary and South Mountain Annex are still in the approval process.

For more information on the LRFP project visit:

District Events & Important Resources

SOMSD Spring Food Support Programs

Please view the Parenting Center in collaboration with community partners' spring support food support programs calendar. Programs are open to all District students and families. Click here to for more information and download flyers:

Essex County is Vaccinating Teachers and School Support Staff by Appointment Only

Essex County is vaccinating teachers and school support staff. It is by appointment only and teachers and/or support staff must be a resident of Essex County. Appointments can be made beginning Friday, March 19 at 5pm by clicking the teacher vaccination button. Visit
April at the Parenting Center

Join the Parenting Center parent support groups taking place during the month of April. Attend one or all of the meetings for any group. Click here to view the Parenting Center flyer

Upcoming Community Events & Important Resources

SOMSD Calendar of Events


The SOMSD school nurses developed a chart to summarize the response to COVID+ activity in the school community and to provide clarification on school notification procedures.

When a SOMSD staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19, it is the responsibility of that staff member or the parent of the student to notify the principal who notifies the superintendent. The respective local Department of Health (DOH) – South Orange or Maplewood - will be notified immediately. The local DOH, who receives the actual lab report, conducts Contact Tracing. Based on the circumstances of each case, the local DOH provides the District with guidance as to the appropriate and timely notification of staff and families of a confirmed case while maintaining confidentiality.