Proposed change to reopening
August 6 Message from the Superintendent #4
From the Superintendent's Office
Pathways to Reopening Communication #4
August 6, 2020
Dear Penn-Delco Parents/Guardians and Staff,
Since the start of our planning for a safe reopening of schools, I have pledged to the community that any recommendation to reopen for in-person or at-home virtual learning would be based upon professional guidance from public health officials, since it is a public health issue that is impacting our ability to operate normally.
Until this week, I had no reason to consider recommending anything but a hybrid reopening. That has changed. Medical and public health officials that support and oversee Delaware County school districts are now indicating that an in-person start to the school year be postponed, based upon updated data and knowledge about virus transmission.
Accordingly, I will be recommending to the Penn-Delco Board of School Directors that our district reopen using the 100% virtual option that has been afforded to school districts.
While I find the loss of a hybrid reopening for the start of school terribly disappointing, it simply would be hypocritical of me to tell the community that schools can safely reopen based upon the recommendations and guidance from health safety officials, then dismiss that guidance once it changed. Further, with the start of school just one month ahead, I recognize that the most advance notice that can be provided is helpful to working parents and caregivers.
Virtual learning at Penn-Delco
Under the virtual model, all students will begin the year learning remotely from the same Penn-Delco teachers they otherwise would have had for in-person instruction. School districts have made substantial improvements to the virtual instruction model that was in place last Spring.
As I noted previously, Penn-Delco teachers can’t wait to get back to teaching. Here, there, and everywhere, teaching, learning, and direct instruction will make its way to your child. Since we are hopeful that trends will improve sooner rather than later, if the health experts are comfortable with a hybrid reopening of schools, PDSD will revisit the reopening status at our September School Board Meeting (9/23) and provide parents and staff with advance notice on any potential changes.
The proposed revised schedule for the 2020-2021 school year reopening
- September 8th, 2020 – October 9th, 2020: Penn Delco operates 100% virtually.
- Students will log into live instruction from the home.
- Since all students will start the year by receiving their instruction from our teachers virtually, enrollment in Penn-Delco Cyber (posted yesterday) will be suspended.
- When school reopens for in-person instruction, parents will still have the option to continue with at-home, virtual learning for their children by enrolling in Penn-Delco Cyber at that time.
The Penn-Delco School Board will be presented with my recommendation Monday evening, August 10th at 7:30 pm. Should the reopening plan be amended, a detailed overview of our fully online, virtual format will be emailed to parents and the community next week. Virtual learning this year will include substantially more live instruction, direct teaching, student engagement, and structure than last year.
Other important points to note
- Our Special Education and Pupil Services department remains committed to ensuring that students with specialized educational plans (health plans, GIEP’s, IEP’s, and 504-service agreements) receive personalized consideration of plans and supports for an all-virtual model. Communication to parents of students in these groups will be made by our Special Education administrators and staff, and a virtual information session will be scheduled for Q and A opportunities.
- As of today, the delivery of Chromebook laptops to the district is scheduled for the end of August. Distribution of student Chromebooks remains tentatively scheduled for the week prior to the start of school, and specific dates and times for distribution will be sent once the district receives the devices. I am especially pleased the School Board has supported the distribution of Chromebook laptops to all students given the circumstances we currently face.
Focused on solutions
It’s impossible for me to adequately convey my disappointment and sadness over the delayed start of in-person instruction. I share the frustration of parents who are hoping for concrete direction from state and federal agencies, yet recognize that those agencies are struggling too with responding to a matter that is as fluid as COVID-19. Criticism is never a solution, and I remain focused on solutions that can make the best of a difficult situation for our families and students.
As soon as I have official health guidance supporting the reopening of schools for in-person instruction, the district will pivot back to that option, in hopes that we can get back to normal as quickly as possible. My next update which will be sent to the community on Tuesday, August 11th.
In closing, thank you for your patience. Not surprisingly, Penn-Delco families and staff have been particularly supportive and understanding during this pandemic period. Whether learning occurs in person or now from home, we continue to work to enable all students to Achieve, Succeed, and Excel.
Dr. George Steinhoff
Superintendent, Penn-Delco School District
Please note a Health and Safety Reopening Plan was approved by the Board of Directors on July 29, 2020. A new plan will be presented to the board recommending a virtual start to the 2020-2021 academic year.
You can also access frequently asked questions newly posted on the COVID section of our website. These will be updated after August 10th.
Communications for the 2020-2021 Academic Year
July 27: Pathways to Reopening Communication #3
Pathways to Reopening Communication #3
July 27, 2020
Dear Penn-Delco Parents/Guardians and Staff,Thank you for such overwhelmingly positive responses to the reopening survey for parents that was just released a few days ago. As of today, we have received over 1900 responses on issues, options, and preferences related to the reopening of schools. As I mentioned in my last update, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on schools is nothing like any of us have experienced before, and the nature of this serious virus only adds to parental anxiety as you attempt to make firm plans for the upcoming school year. If you haven't completed the survey, you are welcome to due so through tomorrow.To lessen that worry, I will continue to provide you updates with the most current information as I know it, recognizing that it remains very fluid. This update is being sent to provide you with a link to a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions that I have developed based upon the feedback received from the survey. Additionally, a link to the draft copy of the Health and Safety Reopening Plan that will be presented to our School Board for approval on Wednesday, July 29th, is also attached.The Health and Safety Plan primarily addresses the ways that school districts will employ effective virus mitigation efforts when school reopens. They were not designed to address other important aspects such as virtual learning, technology, curriculum or assessment. Those aspects are covered in the Frequently Asked Questions document and will also be more fully detailed once the reopening plan is approved through additional upcoming communication.How do we define "reopen"?The amount of contradictory news stories, opinions, and social media speculation on the topic of reopening schools across the country can be truly overwhelming. Don't let it be! There is no single, best option to restart schools this year. Some school districts plan to open for all everyday; others will open under a hybrid model which helps with physical distancing by reducing the number of students in-person; and some will remain in an all-virtual format. Each approach can be justified and there is no one right way for everyone.For some students, a sensible choice will be a return to in-person instruction and increased socialization. For other families it may be best for students to remain learning via the virtual option. Your district stands ready to assist you to the best degree we can. "How can we help?" is not just a phrase but an earnest question that is always offered.Putting students firstOur teachers and support staff thrive when they can practice their craft and their love - educating and supporting children however they can, as best they can, and under whatever circumstances we face. While I cannot promise perfect outcomes, I can promise full effort and consideration for the varied personal situations that each family will navigate. We stand ready to help.As a first step towards that, Penn-Delco has made a significant capital purchase to provide every student, in grades K-12, a Chromebook laptop device as we expand our 1:1 Chromebook to all grades. It is clear that 24/7 access to a computing device was a significant hurdle for our families, especially those with multiple children in our schools. I am pleased we can remove one of the barriers families have faced.This summer I read a quote from the late Arthur Ashe that frames the efforts we are making at the moment. When approaching tough and uncertain challenges, he advised us to "Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can do".With respect to reopening schools, we have started by acknowledging the guidance and science that we know and the imperfect situation that we face. We are using all resources we have to craft the best educational options we can provide for your child. And we will do what we are able to do to serve our students and the Penn-Delco community. We appreciate your patience and partnership with our district while we navigate regional circumstances and recommendations that change regularly.Sincerely,Dr. George Steinhoff, Superintendent of SchoolsLinks to Important DocumentsFor further input, send comments or feedback to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
July 22: Pathways to Reopening Communication: Survey request
Pathways to Reopening: Survey request
July 22, 2020
In my last update I indicated that our school district was hoping to provide five (5) days of in-person instruction for students, along with a cyber learning option for any families who were not comfortable sending their children back to school for in-person instruction.
However, the day following my last presentation to the School Board, the Pennsylvania Guidance for Reopening of Schools was updated to reflect the need for a larger physical distancing between students when in school. As a result of this change, most districts are forced to revert to a hybrid model of instruction, in which a blended approach is provided: students will attend in-person instruction on some days and at-home instruction on others. Those requirements will call for a hybrid approach from Penn-Delco for all grade levels as well.
In the hybrid model, the creation of the groups/cohorts will be based on the first letter of a students last name. This will assist with scheduling in the chance that older siblings could be home on the same days as their younger brother or sister. Our district has also taken the lessons learned from last year's at-home virtual instruction to improve the remote learning experience and reduce the amount of parental oversight that was required in some cases. Once the Reopening plan is officially approved (scheduled for July 29, 2020) a set schedule will be conveyed to you to assist with your planning and work scheduling.
Fortunately, with the hybrid model and the extensive cleaning, disinfecting, and virus mitigation measures schools will have in place, students now have an opportunity to attend school a few days a week, which is an improvement of the end of last year. This is especially important given the socialization and interactivity that many students missed and craved during the Spring quarantine period.
Additionally, the option to enroll in Penn-Delco Cyber, in which a student strictly learns from home either synchronously and/or asynchronously (live online with a teacher and/or separate off-line assignments), will also be offered as we understand there are some parents who would prefer to have that option for their children.
We value your feedback
In order to assist us with fine-tuning the options we can provide, it is especially important that all parents complete the attached Reopening Survey, including one separate survey for each of your children.
For parents who are certain that they will select the PDSD all-cyber option for their child, please know that we will enroll students in that option on a quarterly basis. Should you find that the isolation of cyber school is not conducive to your child's needs, you will have an option to withdrawal from that option and enroll your child in our regular programming. We recognize that parents may wish to reconsider the virtual/cyber/in-person options on a quarterly basis and we are happy to help accommodate that interest.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
A frequent question from parents regarding the return to school deals with the issue of personal face coverings and masks. Students will be required to wear masks when taking the bus, during transitions, in the hallways, and anytime they are less than six feet from another student. However, the hybrid option enables the district to spread desks at least six feet apart which reduces the impact of the mask issue. Given the improvement in comfort and wearability of personal masks, face shields, and other face coverings, some of the springtime concerns over masks have been resolved. Since they work and are an effective mitigation measure against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we will expect them to be worn for the safety of the students and staff.
I understand that survey requests can come and go, and quickly be forgotten. Please complete this survey now, or as soon as possible; it is highly important for our planning and will inform our decisions over the next week. We are requesting the survey be returned NO LATER THAN the end of day July 28th. It will take just a few moments of your time.
Keep an eye out for continued updates over the next week, as well as enrollment opportunities for Penn Delco Cyber beginning July 30th. On Wednesday, July 29th, the Board of School Directors will be asked to approve a final Reopening Plan that will trigger more specific updates containing additional details and clarity on our Reopening Plans for the coming school year. This communication is based on what we know as of today, and is subject to regional conditions or other last minute guidance changes that may develop in coming weeks. I appreciate your understanding of the fluid circumstances regarding school district plans for Reopening.
In closing, a gentle reminder…Your attention to the survey is key: please don’t forget to complete the survey.
Dr. George Steinhoff
PDSD Superintendent of Schools
July 12: Pathway to Reopening Communication #2July 12, 2020Dear Penn-Delco Parents/Guardians,At the end of June I wrote to provide you with initial information about our district’s plans to reopen schools for the 2020/2021 school year. I write again today to provide you with another update on our plans and status for reopening.Penn-Delco continues to plan for an in-person school reopening (first day of school for students September 8th). Our goal is to provide 5 days of in-person instruction by following the health and safety guidelines directed at schools that operate during the COVID-19 pandemic . At this time, our planning indicates that we can accommodate our students while following the guidelines from the Chester County Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and American Academy of Pediatricians.Of course, any plan to reopen assumes that our region does not reverse the progress it has made, and that Delaware County continues to avoid increases in Covid-19 that could move the region back to the "Red Phase". The situation is very fluid, and we will have back-up plans, such as hybrid or alternate schedules, to address various contingencies and changes to pandemic status.Since it was clear from the parent survey that flexibility and options are important to parents, our Penn-Delco Cyber online program, instituted in 2019, will be operating to meet the needs of those families who believe their children may still require virtual, at-home learning. Penn-Delco Cyber is much more robust than the virtual learning that was in place last Spring and we look forward to sharing more information on this program next month.Why open schools?Our work has been in accord with the American Academy of Pediatricians statement on the importance of reopening schools responsibly and safely: “We strongly advocate that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school, according to the guidance”.To that point, our Pathway to Reopening Task Force continues to put plans in place to ensure that our staff and students can return to schools where teaching and learning occurs in a safe and healthy environment.Considering pathways togetherAll school districts are required to submit a Phased Reopening Health and Safety Plan to their Board of School Directors for approval prior to opening school. My administration will brief the School Board on the fundamentals of our plan on Wednesday, July 15 th , with the final comprehensive plan to be recommended for approval on Wednesday, July 29 th . Both meetings will be held at Northley Middle School Auditorium at 7:30 pm.Opportunities for public inspection of the proposed plan will be available between both meetings with information posted to our district website. Parents can expect to receive additional updates on reopening over the coming weeks, as well as a more targeted survey for feedback and school planning purposes. I will extend a voice message at that time alerting you to the survey.What our plan will recommendIn accordance with medical and health guidelines from the Chester County Department of Health (currently also serving Delaware County), the PA Dept of Education, American Academy of Pediatricians, and other governmental health organizations, our reopening plan is built on four key areas that must be addressed to maintain a healthy environment: Screening, Hygiene, Distancing, and Masking.
- Screening – The most important step to prevent the spread of the virus is for parents to conduct daily symptom screening of their children prior to them leaving home in the morning. Students and staff who do not feel well, are sick, or are symptomatic need to stay home. Temperature screenings should occur at home as it is now acknowledged that daily in-person temperature screening of very large groups is not practical, fails to identify positive cases who may still be asymptomatic, and can lead to a queue that violates physical distancing.
- Hygiene – All schools will have required hygiene reminder signage, personal sanitizers, and other CDC-approved sanitizing products and equipment to strengthen hygiene practices in our buildings. Time for frequent hand-washing will be built into the school day. Additional hydrostatic cleaning machines, hand sanitizer stations, and barriers have been purchased to promote hygienic conditions in all of our school buildings. All students will be encouraged to have a personal supply of hand sanitizer, a water bottle, or other helpful hygiene items, and parents may wish to begin to assemble those items ahead of the back-to-school rush.
- Distancing – Following an analysis by our facilities department, we know our classrooms can accommodate the physical distancing practices recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other Health Departments. In all circumstances, we will seek to maximize physical and social distancing wherever possible and feasible. Classroom layouts will be much more traditional to maintain effective spacing between students. Floor or space markers and other directional signage will also be used to honor these recommendations. Additionally, adult and parent visits to schools will be significantly limited and we will continue to encourage virtual meeting opportunities whenever possible.
Managing common areasSchool administrators continue to work through the logistics of their buildings to ensure that we can manage required physical distancing in congregate settings such as cafeterias and lobby areas. Operating cafeterias and managing lunch, at the secondary level for instance, requires us to consider a large number of alternatives, none of which are certain as of today, but will begin to solidify over the next few weeks while we consult with our food service provider, Chartwells, Inc.The facilities department will put in place an enhanced and heightened regimen of cleaning in all areas that will utilize supplies and disinfectants approved for use against COVID-19. Increased ventilation, sanitizing, and additional cleaning of high-touch areas are certainly part of the plan to safely reopen.Some parents have asked if the district will be permitted to run bus transportation. Yes. PDSD plans to offer bus transportation following the Department of Health guidance of two students per seat while wearing masks. As we work to accommodate physical distancing, it will be enormously helpful for the district to know if you plan to send your child by bus or transport them personally.Within the next two weeks, parents/guardians will receive a survey measuring your interest in opting-out of transportation for personally transporting your child to school. We also will ask that you provide a non-binding indication of your plans and preferences for your child in terms of in-person vs virtual learning. We appreciate your assistance with that request.Stay informedA copy of our first reopening presentation to the School Board will be posted to our PDSD website on Thursday, July 16 th . Additionally, parents are welcome to send comments and suggestions to a dedicated email address for input on our plans to reopen. Those comments can be sent to: email@example.com .Future updates will provide additional details on reopening plans, information on enrollment in our Penn-Delco Cyber online learning option, and address any changes that may be contemplated based on pandemic developments or other regional conditions and considerations.As always, thank you for your continued support of Penn-Delco. I hope you and your family are enjoying the summer season as best you can.Sincerely,Dr. George SteinhoffSuperintendent of Schools
- Masking/Face Coverings – Since masks, face shields, or other face coverings slow the spread of the virus, the use of masks and face coverings will be expected of students and staff. Currently, the state order to wear masks eliminates the optionality of the practice. However, the use of masks will remain an important part of our reopening plan due to the unanimity on its effectiveness from medical and health experts. Parents of younger students are especially encouraged to try the use of a variety of face masks or coverings that may provide the most comfort for them prior to the start of the school year. We are aware that masks can be burdensome and we are looking at spacing opportunities for six feet plus of distance and/or other potentialities that may permit and provide some relief from masks, when permitted, and in accordance with health and safety guidance.
June 24: Pathway to Reopening Communication #1June 24, 2020Dear Penn-Delco Community:I am immensely proud of the efforts made by our students and their parents and guardians for successfully navigating at-home education during the 2019/2020 school year. Together, our students, staff, and parents/guardians were able to keep learning alive during the COVID-19 school closure. As we near the month of July, your district staff have turned their attention towards welcoming our students back to the classroom in just ten more weeks.I am writing to provide an update on our planning process to reopen our schools in September. Thank you for the 900+ responses on the survey about reopening. Our Assistant Superintendent and Administrators are reviewing the data and your insight into your experiences with virtual learning and also your hopes for educating your student safely in the 2020-2021 academic year.Pathways to ReopeningAs you may know, on June 3, 2020, the State of Pennsylvania released their Preliminary Guidance on Phased Reopening of Schools to help school communities begin to plan for a safe and productive learning environment for students. Armed with these guidelines and recommendations from county health departments in Southeastern PA, the Penn-Delco School District has convened the Penn-Delco Pathways to Reopening Committee. This team will address all of the considerations to determine the safest and most productive approach to educating Penn-Delco School District students in the 2020-2021 academic year.From facilities and transportation challenges, instruction and technology adjustments, to athletic and extracurricular policies, this committee will explore ways to meet the expectations of our community while adhering to the guidelines offered by governmental and health agencies. I, and many of my colleagues, believe school districts should make plans to reopen for in-person instruction that is both reasonable and responsible, while honoring expert guidance and recommendations.A district task force has already met to address summer athletics and the health and safety of our athletes. A state required health and safety plan will be presented to the board this evening that can permit athletic programs to begin approved summertime activities with required accommodations.Reopening Schools Survey ResultsOpinions on plans to reopen were particularly varied and even contradictory. While some parents and guardians are eager for their children to return to a traditional learning environment as quickly as possible (with varying appetites for PPE), other parents are more cautious and look forward to having a better sense of COVID-19 activity as we get closer to the school year. Parents recognize the value in wearing masks as a method to help slow the spread of the virus, but they admit that a mask on a child for many hours at a time would be a significant challenge.Some families reported challenges with virtual learning, while others felt it exceeded their highest expectations. Some students struggled with virtual learning, others flourished. Many parents were pleased to know that even if schools reopen, Penn-Delco will continue to operate its own online cyber school that enables students to remain within PDSD and participate in our extra-curricular programs, should that become a necessary option.The Pathway to Reopening committee is considering all of the concerns and suggestions as they apply to guidelines that have been given to schools.Next StepsThe Penn-Delco Pathway to Reopening Committee and its sub groups are actively developing a reopening plan to be presented to our school district and School Board in late July/early August. Recommendations and guidelines continue to change and evolve as health agencies learn more about the virus. Accordingly, I will not rush the committee to create a document that may be unnecessarily premature. As information begins to finalize, I will continue to keep you apprised of our direction as we may be reaching out with a more specific and targeted survey for areas requiring further parental and staff input.Copies of all email and social media communication on reopening plans will be posted at the COVID-19 section of our website at www.pdsd.org. In the meantime, you and your children deserve a restful start to your summer season. Enjoy it, and have a wonderful upcoming July 4th Holiday as well.Sincerely,Dr. George SteinhoffSuperintendent