As County Reaches High COVID Transmission, South Orange-Maplewood School District ‘Strongly Recommends’ Indoor Masking

With two schools in the South Orange-Maplewood School District (Clinton and South Mountain) already back to temporary universal mandatory indoor masking due to outbreaks and Essex County now reporting “high” levels of COVID transmission, the district South Orange-Maplewood school is “strongly recommended” that all schools and students return to indoor masking – but do not require it.

According to a letter from the district sent to families on May 13, New Jersey Department of Health guidance recommends “that schools strongly consider universal masking during high CALI score (orange) – for all students and staff, especially if there are challenges incorporating other multi-level prevention strategies (e.g., adequate spacing of students).

However, the district will not return to universal indoor masking “due to the fact that outbreaks identified by our local health departments have been confined to respective schools and/or classrooms and appropriate actions have been taken.”

Millburn Public Schools takes a similar position.

Learn more below:

From the South Orange-Maplewood School District:

Hello SOMSD community,

We continue to prioritize keeping our students in school as much as possible for a full day of in-person learning. Based on the latest COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) report released by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), Essex County, along with the majority of NJ, is now considered to have high community transmission (orange).

According to the NJDOH, for schools that choose not to institute a universal masking policy, it is recommended that schools strongly consider universal masking during high CALI score (orange) – for all students and staff, especially s It is difficult to incorporate other layers of prevention strategies (eg adequate spacing of students). In addition, the NJDOH also clarifies that – during an outbreak or general increase in cases, schools should consult with their local health departments to determine if short-term universal masking or masking in affected classrooms should be needed to control the outbreak/increase in cases .

Currently, due to multiple classroom outbreaks, two of our school communities, Clinton Elementary and South Mountain Elementary (big school) have had to transition to short-term mandatory “universal masking” inside/on buses for everyone. staff and students.

While NJDOH and local health departments strongly recommend “universal masking” during high community transmission of COVID, as a district we are not instituting a district-wide return to “mandatory universal masking.” This is because outbreaks identified by our local health departments have been confined to the respective schools and/or classrooms and appropriate measures have been taken.

However, with the increase in outbreaks in our district over the past two weeks and new state information, we strongly recommend that all students/staff consider masking up inside and on the bus. Based on the information we have provided, we leave it to parents/staff to determine the best decision for themselves and their families and we will respect the choices made by our students and staff.

Currently, mandatory interior masking will be required in the following cases:

  1. At large indoor gatherings, including but not limited to large assemblies, plays, art exhibits, concerts, upcoming moving ceremonies;

  2. For individuals returning to school after positive COVID isolation on days 6-10 (required)

  3. As recommended or required by DOH (i.e. significant increase in transmission, outbreak

Current mitigation strategies will continue to be followed:

  • The district will maintain our cleaning and disinfection protocols in all classrooms and buildings.

  • We will follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health for ventilation and air circulation in the classroom, optimize the distance (if possible) and, as the weather warms up, we will start using the outdoor space. if possible.

We encourage you to visit the District’s Covid-19 Dashboard [] for an overview of Covid cases reported each week (as a reminder, the dashboard only takes into account confirmed laboratory tests). Going forward, we will also include two new fields in the dashboard to notify the wider community of major outbreaks or school closures in the district:

  • Temporary return to school-wide “universal masking” – Will provide a brief summary of school buildings that have had to switch to short-term “universal masking” inside/on buses.

  • Temporary School Closures: Will share an update on any schools that have to close for a period of time (and switch to virtual teaching entirely) due to the increase in Covid cases.

Also, later next week, we will be updating our current 2021-22 School Year and Covid webpage to reflect the district’s most recent Covid guidelines and protocols, as well as FAQs for common questions we received from our community of parents.

As always, the health and safety of everyone in our school buildings is our top priority. As such, we are closely following the recommendations of our national and local health authorities. As these recommendations change, we will adjust our health and safety protocols accordingly. We may still need to re-implement our mask policy if the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in our schools or community increases.

We thank you for your support and understanding.

We understand the level of concern about COVID-19; and we encourage parents and students to continue to follow safeguards promoted by the CDC and NJDOH, such as:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted as eligible;
  • staying home when sick;
  • Consider wearing a mask at school and in public places;
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer;
  • Cover coughs and sneezes and properly dispose of tissues;
  • Limit close contact with sick people and do not share food, drink and utensils;
  • Practice social distancing whenever possible; and
  • Continue to monitor your health for symptoms. Get a lab PCR or rapid test if you have symptoms, and see testing information at:
  • PCR booster and rapid tests are available through our partner MediMobile every Saturday (9am – 3pm) and Wednesday (4pm – 6pm) at the BOE Building, 525 Academy St., Maplewood

From Millburn Public Schools:

Dear Millburn Employees and Families,

As my district update reported yesterday, the community is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, reflected in the Department of Health’s recent announcement that most of New Jersey, including our region, is moved to a high (orange) Covid activity level (CALI) level of virus transmission.

As a result of this new level of transmission, the NJ DOH has updated its recommendations/guidelines for schools. As we have done when we see an increase in cases in a classroom or school, we will strongly encourage all staff and students to wear masks, and consider other measures as recommended below:

  1. Strongly consider universal masking for all students and staff. It can also include outdoor activities, especially for outdoor activities where close contact occurs.
  2. Maximize physical distancing between students/staff whenever possible, especially during high-risk activities, eating, singing, etc.
  3. Consider making some club meetings/activities virtual where possible.
  4. Ongoing cleaning/disinfection of frequently touched surfaces.
  5. Increase air ventilation where possible and/or use outdoor spaces if weather permits (and allergies).