The following was sent by the South Orange - Maplewood School District on Nov. 12:
To the South Orange Maplewood School Community:
On behalf of the South Orange Maplewood School District, I express heartfelt gratitude for the extraordinary efforts of our students, staff, families, municipal officials, and entire community in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Even though many of us faced hardships of our own, and were struggling to recover from storm damage and power outages in our own homes, everyone still came together as a caring community to put our kids first.
Five of our nine schools were able to open on Monday, and by Wednesday everyone was back in class, although three school buildings remained without power. The South Mountain Annex students and staff attended class at the “big school” for an entire week. On Wednesday and Thursday, Maplewood Middle School students were split amongst three locations: 6th grade at Montrose, 7th grade at South Orange Middle School, and 8th grade at Columbia High School. On Wednesday, Clinton students were also split with K-2 students meeting at Seth Boyden and 3-5 students at Jefferson, although they were able to return to Clinton on Thursday. The displaced staff, the hosting staff and district-wide staff all showed true professionalism, flexibility, and leadership, allowing for admirable days of learning for our students.
I am incredibly grateful to so many people for their heroic efforts:
SOMSD students for returning to school with joy and focus, even though so many were coming from cold, dark houses. SOMSD teachers and staff for their dedication, some coming from over an hour away despite gas shortages, some working in unfamiliar locations with minimal materials, and all engaging their students in meaningful ways, helping them regain a sense of normalcy.
SOMSD administrators for working late into the night to make sure things would be ready for students, and for their creativity in devising solutions to unforeseen problems. SOMSD parents and guardians for their commitment to education, guiding children safely to their own schools and trekking across town to unfamiliar locations to make sure their children were back in class.
Municipal officials for their outstanding leadership in challenging times, and their relentless pressure on PSE&G to restore power to all of our schools and homes. The Maplewood Police Department, South Orange Police Department, Maplewood Fire Department, South Orange Fire Department, and Offices of Emergency Management for both towns for tirelessly working to keep our students and community safe.
St. Joseph’s Food Pantry and the Rent Party for partnering with SOMSD to provide food to district families in need.
Local churches, temples, libraries and community centers for opening their doors and offering shelter, warmth and charging stations to families enduring cold, dark homes for days on end.
After two weeks struggling with storm damage, power outages, and downed phone lines, all SOMSD schools are now back in business. Power was restored to Maplewood Middle School and the South Mountain Annex late Thursday November 8th, and phones were restored on November 9th. Monday November 12th saw a return to normalcy, with every student and staff member able to report to their usual school building for a regular school day.
This is an extraordinary community that truly puts the needs of its children first.
Brian G. Osborne, Ed.D. Superintendent South Orange Maplewood School District