As a Matter of Fact!

SOMSD Newsletter - July 10, 2020, Vol. 1- ISSUE 17

Superintendent's Corner

Hello SOMSD Families,

On Tuesday, July 7 the District sent out a survey to all SOMSD families requesting their input to a return to school survey. If you haven't had the chance to, please fill out the survey.

The New Jersey Department of Education is working on plans for re-opening school buildings in the 2020-21 school year and is currently exploring various options based on available guidance from public health experts. We want your feedback to understand what is most important to you.

While it is our hope that school would resume normal operations in the fall, due to the uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic still poses we realize that this may not be possible. As we prepare our District's Reopening Plan, we are taking into consideration that the pandemic will roll-over into September 2020 and beyond. Please fill out this survey assuming health and safety measures like social distancing are still in place.

Your answers to this survey are anonymous and confidential. If you have more than one child in your family, we recommend filling out this survey for each child.

Click here or copy URL to fill out the survey:

Educationally Yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

Preschool Program Waiting List Update

Dear SOMSD Pre-K Parents/Guardians:

We hope that you and your family are well. Thank you for your patience and understanding as the District finalizes plans for the 2020-2021 school year. In an effort to keep all lines of communication open with our families and community, please see below for an update of the District’s Preschool Education program and registration for the 2020-2021 school year.

While the district is eager to move forward with the placement of more students from our lottery waitlist, we are currently still awaiting final budgetary decisions from the New Jersey Department of Education, in addition to updated guidance from the federal, state and local levels as a result of the impact of Covid-19. We remain hopeful that we will be able to place the more than 100+ students on our waitlist, and the Preschool Department will provide another placement update in late July.

We thank you for your patience during this unprecedented time. Please email us at with any questions or visit the Preschool webpage for updates. Be safe and well.


Melody Alegria, Ed.D
cc: Leroy Johnson III, Supervisor, Preschool Education Program

CHS Announces Fall Sports Update

Dear Parents & Guardians,

I hope that all is well. As the summer progresses, and as we ramp up for the next school year with Covid-19 still at the forefront of our decision-making, I want to provide you with an update on our Columbia High School athletics program.

Dr. Taylor is leading us on this important task and I have been fortunate to have already started working with district and building personnel on the Rethink-Reopen Taskforce. Mr. Ken Mullen, our Interim Atheltic Director, has done a terrific job meeting with our health personnel, coaches, and the building and grounds team to ensure we can begin our sports program while maintaining the health and safety of our students and staff, which is, of course, our first priority.

After many meetings, much research, surveying CHS parents, equipment purchasing, and conferring with neighboring districts, we are ready to begin a summer conditioning and workout program. Since this is a fluid situation with local and national guidelines continuously being updated, we ask for your patience if we need to make any changes. We are sharing a tentative athletic schedule to begin in late July and run through the end of August.

Read More.

Seth Boyden Students Participate in Online Artist Workshop with International Artist, Hanoch Piven

On June 18th, over 160 Seth Boyden students, families and faculty participated in an online artist workshop with the international artist and author Hanoch Piven. Piven conducted the workshop from Israel using Zoom. This online workshop was a chance for the Seth Boyden family to come together as a community although we cannot be together in person. During the workshop, Piven spoke to the students about using objects in their artwork that had personal meaning. Students mostly used found objects from around their houses and from nature to create meaningful self-portraits. Students left the workshop understanding that art transcends the art room and that creating art helps to develop flexibility, self-knowledge, and resilience. Thank you to the Seth Boyden PTA and a parent donor for funding this event.

SOMSD School Reopening Plan: Parenting Center Assembling a Parent Panel for Focus Group

Dear SOMSD Family,

Our School District recognizes the importance of hearing and weighing parental voices as we work on reopening in the fall. Toward this end, The Parenting Center will begin the process of assembling a parent feedback panel on reopening our schools. In the next week, we will send an email/SMS text with an application form for any parents/guardians who are interested in being involved with the Parent Panel for Reopening School. We seek to gather a diverse and representative group, so once application responses have been received (due date to be provided), a lottery system will be used to choose two-panel members from each school and SEPAC to serve as part of the parent panel.

The panel will meet with Superintendent, Dr. Taylor twice during the summer and will function much like a focus group sharing responses to options that he will be presenting.

We look forward to the Panel meetings and the results of the survey - both will make an important contribution to the planning process for our District's reopening in the fall.

Please look for an email from the district in the next week with more information.


Karen Weiland

Seth Boyden School Outdoor Learning Center Announces Garden Book Launch on Amazon

The Seth Boyden Outdoor Learning Center announces the launch of their school garden book, "Recipes for a Successful School Garden: A Guide for Parents and Teachers."

The school garden book, written by Maggie Tuohy, Seth Boyden School's Outdoor Learning Center teacher and master gardener and Elizabeth Ebinger, Outdoor Learning Center lead and master gardener is based on their experiences in the Seth Boyden Garden. The book is entitled Recipes for a Successful School Garden is now live and available for purchase online at Amazon. It provides a detailed account of their experiences in the garden and the lessons that have learned in its 20+ year history. It shares best practices, curriculum ideas and recipes to help other school garden volunteers and teachers create joy and wonder in their own school gardens.

Seth Boyden has the largest outdoor backyard space of any school in the South Orange-Maplewood School District. The Strawberry Fields produce garden forms part of Seth Boyden’s Outdoor Learning Center, which also includes an outdoor classroom, a performance circle, a large sundial, multiple play structures, and a host of native plantings and trees.

Seth Boyden's Garden Recess has been around for more than 16 years. Shortly after the re-establishment of Seth Boyden as a demonstration school in 1999, the school’s grounds began to be redesigned and Strawberry Fields took form. The garden activities have evolved over the years as the parent community has changed, with each set of volunteer parents bringing what they love to the garden and passing along their methods and knowledge.

Tuohy and Ebinger, who have led the initiative over the past several years, are both master gardeners, a designation received after completing an official university extension program.

Currently, all of the garden's beds are full and growing summer vegetables. The harvest is shared with the school community and local families on Wednesdays at Maplecrest Park and on Saturdays outside of the garden. According to Touhy and Ebinger, "they believe that sharing what is grown in the garden builds friendships and community as well as good nutrition."

Proceeds of the book will go to supporting the mission of connecting children to nature through the Seth Boyden Elementary School’s garden and outdoor spaces.

Parenting Center: Hard Conversations in Difficult Times

If you missed the live webinar held in June, view the video from the Parenting Centers webinar: Hard Conversations in Difficult Times: Talking to our Kids about Race.

How should we speak to kids? What do we tell kids? Should we tell kids? Those are among the many questions parents are asking after the death of George Floyd, which has sparked nationwide protests and outrage. "*Many white parents wonder whether to talk with their kids at all, while parents of color swallow their grief and fear to have "the talk" once again. These deaths are part of a more complex story, one some parents have been telling for generations, and others have long felt they've had the luxury to ignore. Experts in child psychology and race-based stress say these conversations are essential for all parents to have."

Guest experts, Dr. Eddie Fergus, Professor, Author & Educational Equity Expert, and Dr. Adam Price, Child & adolescent psychologist, author and lecturer on child development and parenting, provided families advice and appropriate ways to speak to your kids about racism.

Parenting Center: Hard Conversations in Difficult Times: Talking to Our Kids About Race

SOMSD Families Can Access Digital E-Books & Audiobooks through the District's MackinVIA Membership

As a reminder, the South Orange & Maplewood School District is now a member of the Connected Library Consortium. This membership allows us access to a collection of e-books and audiobooks for K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 that is housed in MackinVIA. We joined the CLC through a collaborative effort between the SOMSD school libraries and the District.

As we move into the summer months, we believe this resource will be invaluable to students and families in supporting the summer reading lists. For more information on how to access this digital resource visit:

2020 SOMSD Summer Reading Lists

These lists of summer reading suggestions were compiled by your librarians from the South Orange and Maplewood Schools and the public libraries, and are available online through the SOMSD website and the public library sites. Physical copies of these books will be available soon at the public libraries & your local bookstores. Many titles from the lists are available as eBooks and/or eAudiobooks and can be accessed by clicking on the links below each book with your town’s library card. The online collections will continue to expand over the summer, so please check back often.

Click here to access:

SOMSD USDA Summer Food Support Program Continues Through August 21

Summer Food Support Programs & Information

Programa e Información de Apoyo Alimenticio de Verano

Pwogram Sipò ak Enfòmasyon Pou Manje Pandan Ete

South Orange & Maplewood School District in partnership with the Township of Maplewood, the Parenting Center, and its partners are providing various options for food support over the summer months.

The District's summer breakfast and lunch are provided through the USDA Summer Meals Program in coordination between Township of Irvington and Township of Maplewood. We will provide free, breakfast and lunch Grab 'n' Go meals for kids starting on June 29 through August 21, M - F, 9 am - 11 am at Maplecrest Park, between Essex Road and Boyden Parkway.

SOMSD additional pantry and food support information can be found on the district website:

Additional Information & Resources for the Community

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