As A Matter of Fact!

SOMSD Newsletter | Vol 2. Issue 16 | June 18, 2021

Superintendent's Corner

Hello SOMSD Family,

What a year! It's hard to believe that we are finally winding down and next week we will be celebrating moving up ceremonies at our elementary and middle schools and hosting in-person outdoor graduation for the CHS Class of 2021.

It has been a trying couple of weeks as our community has dealt with the tragic loss of one of our students, CHS Junior, Moussa Fofana, yet we have been encouraged by the outpouring of love, support from the entire SOMA community. On Saturday, June 12th, CHS held a vigil and memorial event for Moussa Fofana, and several hundred community members attended in support of Moussa and his family. While students and staff members spoke lovingly about Moussa in moving tributes, our community is still experiencing an indescribable heartache of a truly tragic and senseless loss. We continue to encourage members of our community to share any tips or information with our local police department as they continue their investigation.

As we continue our wind-down, we also know that parents want to know what Fall 2021 school reopening will look like. First, we want to thank the more than 300 parents and community members who offered their thoughts on reopening for the fall utilizing our google survey that was issued. The language in that survey was lifted directly from the state's reopening template and your responses have been distributed to our Task Force Leaders.

The reopening task force team is working on the granular details regarding the fall. As we have stated many times, our goal is to open with as close to a normal pre-covid opening as possible. This includes a normal in-person schedule with lunch, snacks, etc. To accomplish this, the task force is broken down into subcommittees that focus on a particular topic that we deem as crucial for reopening. They include:

  • Curriculum and Instruction;
  • Health and Wellness;
  • Staffing;
  • Daily Operations/Lunch; and,
  • Communications.

Our Governor’s recent updates have greatly assisted in our planning. With our Statewide Health Emergency concluding we now have the ability to have far fewer restrictions on our space and programming. As recently as early this week, our County Superintendent’s Office confirmed to all Districts in Essex that, Virtual learning is not permissible unless we are in a declared public health emergency. While this statement seems clear, there are also many questions, for instance how to handle quarantines (instructional) and the task force is working on these details. We are connecting our research, best practices, lessons learned, and other guiding principles to develop our plan.

We will be sharing a more detailed review of our reopening plan along with a review of our District Goals in an upcoming webinar that we hope will answer many questions of what school will look like in the fall for our SOMSD families.

Happy Juneteenth and have a great and safe weekend!

Educationally yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

- YouTube

Curriculum & Instruction News

The District Partners with Kean to Launch the First-Ever Dual Enrollment Program at SOMSD

The South Orange & Maplewood School District is proud to announce its partnership with Kean University's Scholar Academy. The newly launched Scholar Academy is a dual-enrollment initiative that will prepare selected high school students for college by bringing them on campus to earn college credits and take part in mentorships, internships, and other college experiences starting in ninth grade.

Kean University's innovative, new pre-college program, the Kean Scholar Academy offers qualified students the opportunity to earn college credits and participate in pre-college mentorships, internships, and other enrichment activities that support their academic journey toward college. This partnership is the District’s first time offering dual-enrollment college-based programming to students. Eleven middle-school students from SOMSD are taking part in the inaugural class, which Kean University announced in May.

Dr. Matthew Friedman, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction, says “We are so proud of the eleven SOMSD students who will be joining the inaugural Kean Scholar program.” Dr. Friedman continued “the eighth-grade students were invited to apply for the program by principals from Maplewood Middle School and South Middle School; they then had to submit an application and were chosen after a rigorous selection process from members of Kean University administration.”

The inaugural class of the Kean Scholar Academy will include about 125 students. The first cohort starts in Summer 2021 when they will begin a four-week summer orientation on the University’s Union and Skylands campuses to learn about the college experience and meet members of their cohort. Students will get a taste of college life and will begin attending classes on campus once per week starting in the Fall, and will also have twice-monthly team-building activities on Saturdays, they will attend a second session through synchronous in-person and virtual learning. Read more.

District Announces 2021 Summer Assignments & Reading List

SOMSD announces its annual summer assignments and reading list. Compiled by our school librarians and SOMA public libraries, these suggested summer readings are available online through the District's website and the public library sites. Learn more here:
SOMSD/SOMA Celebrate Juneteenth!

In case you missed it, check out resources to learn more about Juneteenth (June 19) as well as events happening locally.

District 2020-21 Meal Application & P-EBT Benefits Deadline Open Until June 28

Dear Parents/Guardians,

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) is part of the U.S. government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. P-EBT benefits are available to children who were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals at a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), but whose schools closed or operated with reduced attendance or hours for five consecutive days due to COVID-19.

If you have not yet completed a 2020-2021 meal application, you can still apply no later than June 28, 2021. If your student qualifies for free or reduced meals, you will be eligible for P-EBT benefits issued by the State for the entire 2020-21 school year. IF NO MEAL APPLICATION IS COMPLETED & APPROVED BY JUNE 28, 2021, YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE P-EBT CARD.

Click here for information/translations:

Preschool Online Pre-Registration Deadline is Approaching: Monday, June 21

IMPORTANT: To SOMA families of preschool-aged students "who have not yet" pre-registered for the 2021-22 SY District preschool program, the deadline to pre-register online is Monday, June 21. Please note, pre-registration will just place your child on a waitlist for the upcoming school year. Click here for more information:

Upcoming District/School Events

SAVE THE DATE: SOMSD Integration Virtual Q&A Event for Incoming Kindergarten Families - June 29

Dear Incoming Kindergarten Families,

We invite you to join Superintendent Ronald G. Taylor on Tuesday, June 29 @ 6 pm as he provides a brief overview of the District's Intentional Integration Initiative (III) which will launch in September 2021. The brief presentation will be followed by a Q&A session for any additional questions families may have regarding III. Please visit the SOMSD III microsite for updated information regarding this initiative:

Click here for event information:

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Maplewood Township 2021 Summer Meals Program Begins on June 28

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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

Local COVID Vaccination & Testing, Rental Assistance Information & Resources

NJ vaccinations are now open to youth 12 years and up. Everyone 12 or older who lives, works, or studies in New Jersey is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Essex County is expected to provide the Pfizer vaccine for 12 and up at two locations:

  • Vaccination appointments are available at Essex County College and the Kmart West Orange location. Hours will be 3:00 p.m. -7:00 p.m., which is subject to change. You will be able to schedule an appt on or and see vaccine availability; walk-ups will also be accepted.

View previously shared information regarding local COVID testing and vaccination and other important Covid-related resources and assistance. Please visit the District website for information:

All Return to School Updates & Resources

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

Congrats to the Lacrosse Boys and Girls Student Athletes For Their Selections to All-Conference Teams

Congratulations to our student-athletes who were selected to all-conference teams by coaches from both the Kimber, Freedom South and Super Essex Conferences.

CHS Boys Lacrosse

Kimber Conference

First Team

RJ Benn 11

Walter Rae 11

Banks Grumieaux 12

2nd Team

Cole Able 10

Honorable Mention

Aden Verdun 12

SEC All-Conference Liberty Divison

First Team

RJ Benn

Walter Rae

Banks Grumieaux

Honorable Mention

Cole Able

CHS Girls Lacrosse

Freedom South -

Team Sportsmanship Award: Columbia High School Girls Lacrosse

NJIGLL Freedom South

2nd Team

Lily Ramos 12

Lila Price 12

Honorable Mention Jamie Fardin 10

Academic All-League (had to be all-League to qualify)

Lily Ramos 3.7 GPA

Lila Price 3.7 GPA

Jamie Fardin 3.9 GPA

SEC All-Conference Liberty Divison

First Team

Lily Ramos

Lila Price

SEC All-Conference Liberty Divison

2nd Team

Jamie Fardin

Julianne Hatton-Henigan 10

Honorable Mention

Indigo Banjo 12

All-Tournament Team

Lily Ramos

SOMSD Mental Health Resources for Students

Please view a list of mental health resources and support available to District students both internally and via external sources.

SOMSD Calendar of Events

  • Wed., June 23: Last Day of School (GRADES PreK-7 & 9)- STUDENTS ONLY
  • Thurs., June 24: Last Day of School (GRADES 8 & 10-12)/LAST TEACHER DAY
  • Thurs., June 24: Columbia High School Graduation
  • Mon., July 12: BOE Meeting, Public Session @ 7:30 pm