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Regional School Reopening Plans

Area Schools Face Challenges in Reopening for the New School Year

By Dave Bellomo & Lou Hunsinger Jr.

[Editor’s Note: All of the information in this article is ‘as of press time.’ Like so much else, anything can change at the last minute, but we wanted to give you the most accurate, up-to-date information available. ~ Steph]

School districts are each required to submit health and safety plans to re-open and must outline whether they will implement in-person, virtual, and/or hybrid options for students. While each school re-opening plan offers unique attributes, many commonalities exist, including face-coverings for all. In addition, many schools are opting for a combination of learning strategies such as virtual and in-person learning. While the region remains somewhat stable when referring to the number of new COVID-19 cases, school districts stress the need to be flexible to be able adapt to changing health conditions and mandates from the state.

Untold man-hours have been devoted to this process by these area school districts. Many of the steps and policies they have adopted are similar in nature, and this is because they have to adhere to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Department mandates. They are very extensive in scope, and we will try and summarize them.
Jersey Shore Area School District

Jersey Shore Area School District will offer all three options, allowing families to choose. Per the JSASD website, Dr. Brian Ulmer, district superintendent, stated, “The district is committed to a plan that allows students and families to continue their education and feel safe. Families are free to choose the option that works for each child.” Hybrid schedules will be developed in cooperation between the building principal and the individual families.

New safety protocols will be in place, including masking when not socially distanced, temperature checks by parents and guardians, and increased sanitation of high touch areas.

The PA Department of Health will handle all contract tracing and notification per the Department of Education guidance. JSASD will follow their direction.
South Williamsport

South Williamsport Area School district will be offering a hybrid program of both in-person and virtual classes. The students will be on an A/B schedule where 1/2 the students will attend classes in-person two days per week, with the other half taking classes remotely.

According to the school’s safety plan, students will attend school on an A / B rotation. “A” will attend Monday and Thursday. “B” will attend Tuesday and Friday. All students will work remotely on days opposite their in-person instruction and on Wednesdays.

Students with IEPs who need daily intensive instruction (For example Life Skills, Autistic Support, etc.) will be educated in school every day. These students will not follow the hybrid model.

The benefit of this hybrid system is that since only half the students are at school at any one time, it allows for social distancing. South Williamsport Area School District will follow CDC guidelines for cleaning.

“While it is clear that everyone understands school will be different and difficult, we are working on getting everyone back into school safely.” said Dr. Mark Stamm, South Williamsport Area School Superintendent. Dr. Stamm went on to say that this plan will be much better than the past spring term and that the school district plans on getting everyone back to school safely and still be in line with state guidelines.
Keystone Central School District

Keystone Central School District, which includes Central Mountain High School, will be offering four choices for families to return to school this fall. The options include learning at home, a virtual academy, face-to-face learning, and a hybrid program.

Learning at home will give students access to the same instruction that is provided in the live classroom and will follow the same pace. This option will also allow students to collaborate with teachers and learn with other students in the face-to-face classroom.

The virtual academy option allows students to work at their own pace, though they would not be able to participate in live learning activities with other students.

The hybrid option would include remote learning at school in a location that offers increased safety protocols and where interaction with other students is limited.

Last, the face-to-face option would be live classroom instruction with a teacher and other students.

Dr. Jacquelyn Martin, Keystone Central School District Superintendent, said, “In general, we decided to have school open five days a week because we looked at the wants of the parents/families in our community along with the low incident rate of COVID-19 spread. We believe that since only 68% of our students are returning in person (others have selected remote options), we can ensure students are 6 feet apart and follow all safety protocols.”

Keystone is having a “soft opening” this year, opting to stagger the first day of school based on age groups to allow for students to adjust to the new safety protocols. The first day of school will be September 1st for younger students and September 2nd for older students. All students will be in class on September 3rd. “The soft opening is necessary to teach the new safety protocols, distribute tech devices, and work out any unexpected complications.”
St. John Neumann Regional Academy

Since St. John Neumann Regional Academy is a private Catholic school, re-opening guidelines are communicated somewhat differently than public schools. The guidelines first come from the Diocese of Scranton then are modified by a committee at the local level. The committee follows recommendations from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“We looked at every minute of the day. From 7:30 a.m. – 2:40 p.m. and tried to see how that day would look with new safety protocols in place.” said Alicia McNamee, Principal of St. John Neumann Regional Academy. “We take the staff, faculty, and students’ health and safety very seriously and have been working with the Superintendent to keep everyone safe in this environment.”

The Catholic school will have in-person classes five days per week at both the elementary and high schools, though virtual options are available. In addition, the school plans to implement daily temperature checks, hand sanitization stations, and students are required to report directly to homeroom upon arrival. Masking is required for staff, faculty, and students when social distancing is not possible. Desk shields will also be used while the students are at their desks so that they do not have to mask while learning.
Loyalsock Township School District

Loyalsock Township School District will be opening with in-person instruction five days a week, beginning August 31st. While Loyalsock Township School District officials were unavailable for comment, the action plan that was posted on the school’s website outlined the details for re-opening.

Regarding special cleaning protocols, electrostatic foggers may be used to disinfect high touch spaces, and disinfectant will be available for staff, faculty, and students. In addition, two additional electrostatic sprayers were purchased for use in the nurses’ offices. There will also be a focused cleaning of the building nightly.

While in the Green Phase, class schedules will be designed to maximize social distancing as much as possible, and teachers will maximize space. Also, visitors, volunteers, presenters, and parent visitors will be restricted when feasible.

Should the county move into the Yellow Phase, the school district will implement a staggered hybrid schedule that will be implemented to limit the number of individuals in classrooms or other spaces. Using a combination of face-to-face and virtual instruction will reduce the number of students in each building and will allow for social distancing guidelines to be met since approximately only half of the students will be present.
Williamsport Area School District

Williamsport Area School District plans to begin instruction on September 1st using a hybrid model. Students will alternate days of in-person classes with remote learning. All students will work remotely on the fifth day. Each building will assign students their alternate school schedule.

In-person instruction will be used for check-ins and direct instruction. Remote learning will focus on the completion of assignments, independent reading.

According to the re-opening plan listed on the district’s website, this plan allows the district to reduce the number of people in buildings and classrooms by 50%, thus allowing for social distancing. In addition, the staggered instruction schedule allows the district to reduce the number of students using school transportation. Both of which allow the school district to remain flexible and quickly adapt to changing conditions.
This year has been a year like no other because of the dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Area school districts have been challenged like they have never been before. They are now wrestling ways to re-open their schools safely after a five-month hiatus.
Muncy School District

In the Muncy School District, schools will re-open on August 31. All students will be required to wear face coverings at all times, even when spaced six (6) feet apart. As part of the new requirement released by the Department of Health (DOH), all school health and safety plans are required to reflect this change. Limited exceptions to the requirement include: (a) eating or drinking when spaced at least 6 feet apart; (b) when wearing a face-covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task; (c) at least 6 feet apart during “face covering breaks” to last no longer than 10 minutes (d) medical or mental health condition or disability, in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or IDEA that precludes the wearing of a face covering in school.

The School Board named Friday, September 18th, a distance learning day for all students. Planned distance learning days, delays, or dismissals may continue to be added to the school calendar in the future to help assist our teachers with planning and implementation efforts. They will work to provide advanced notification for students and families to properly plan for any changes to the school calendar. The Board will evaluate the need for further calendar changes at the Monday, September 21 board meeting.

If it becomes necessary to transition to a hybrid learning model, the district will bring approximately 50 percent of the student population on a set, two-day a week schedule rather than bringing approximately 33 percent of the student population on a rotating three-day cycle. The school district will work with families to make necessary adjustments to allow all family members to attend school on the same day.
Montoursville Area School District

In Montoursville, school opens September 1, and they will be operating on a hybrid learning plan that would see half the student population doing in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays as cleaning days devoted to sanitizing the classrooms and the school buildings. All desks will be outfitted with 21-inch high plexiglass shields in classrooms, which will be issued to students as their personal property for school.

Face covering will, of course, be required. Each student and staff member will be given a gaiter, mask, and face shield at the beginning of the year.

As students enter the school, equipment has been purchased to automatically check the student’s temperatures. If a student is flagged, then they will be taken to the nurse’s office for a more specific temperature check.

For lunches, additional tables and chairs will be added so that the students may eat without personal protective equipment.
East Lycoming School District

In the East Lycoming School District is starting an in-school five day week beginning August 26.

Face coverings and social distancing will be observed. Each school building will have a nurse on duty at all times.

If a student or teacher tests positive, the Department of Health will be immediately notified. All students in the building will be notified of a positive COVID test while maintaining confidentiality. The Department of Health will directly contact the parents whose children came in direct contact with the positive individual.

The district is fully prepared to engage in remote learning if that is deemed necessary by authorities.
Montgomery Area School District

The Montgomery Area School District will be operating on a hybrid model when classes resume on August 31, with alternating days of in-person and remote instruction.

Face coverings are required. District officials are asking parents or caregivers to take students’ temperature before they depart for school. If any student has a temperature of 100.4 or more, they MUST STAY HOME.

Sanitizing measures at all buildings will be taken.
Milton School District

In the Milton School District, there are three instructional options available. The first is fully in-classroom instruction, the second is a hybrid of in-classroom and remote by computer, and the third is fully remote or computerized.

Milton officials are taking all the necessary sanitizing measures of all of its school buildings, and students who are in the classroom will be required to have face coverings.
Warrior Run School District

The Warrior Run School District re-opened Thursday, August 20th, in accordance with their school calendar. Students and families will have the opportunity to choose traditional face-to-face instruction (with safety measures in place), virtual, real-time/blended learning with Warrior Run Teachers, or Warrior Run Cyber. Parents may also choose to homeschool their child(ren) during the closure under the PA Homeschool Law. Please note that students attending traditional face-to-face instruction must comply with the rules and regulations set forth in the District’s Health & Safety Plan. This includes completing daily screenings, mask-wearing, social distancing, etc. Students with a documented medical condition or disability exempting them from wearing a face-covering must present said documentation prior to the start of the school year. In such cases, students may still be required to wear a face-covering on district transportation, hallways, cafeterias, etc. Accommodations may be made on a case-by-case basis to ensure all students’ safety.

The above information is not a definitive listing all of the nuts and bolts of the various school districts’ re-opening plans. If you have questions about specific items or issues, you should contact officials in your school district.

Webb Weekly

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