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Hybrid model approved

The Penn-Delco School Board of Directors approved a PDE required School District Health and Safety Reopening Plan at their regular school board meeting Wednesday, July 29th.  The draft plan was presented to the Board on July 15th with an original recommendation of opening five days per week with state mandated health safety protocols in place.

The district reopening plan subsequently was forced to change as a result of revised state guidance requiring that students be separated in the classroom at a distance of six feet.  Current classroom sizes and configurations cannot accommodate full classrooms while honoring six feet of physical distancing between desks. Accordingly, the district moved to recommend a hybrid plan in which half of the students learn from home while half receive in-person instruction in school.

A "just right" approach

The plan, which Dr. George Steinhoff described as the "just right" hybrid due to a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, brings all K-12 students into the classroom two-days per week (M/TH or T/F) . Students will be assigned to two separate groups or "cohorts": one group learning in person at school, while the other group learns from home and syncing into instruction at varying times. 

Students with last names A-K will attend schools on Monday and Thursday, while students with last names beginning with L-Z  will attend Tuesday and Friday.  Families with students with different last names will be grouped with the youngest’s last name letter. 

Wednesdays will serve as a day for a modified schedule in which both groups can receive synchronous and asynchronous work and assignments, complete independent work, utilize teacher office hours, and other student support opportunities. It will also be an opportunity for the District to exercise an additional layer of deep cleaning mid-week.  

Technology supplied to all

During the School Board meeting, the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. George Steinhoff, announced that the District had recently ordered Chromebooks for ALL K-8 students, in addition to the ones provided to SVHS students, in order to provide the technology necessary for virtual learning.  While demand for technology is high, Dr. Steinhoff stated that as of that evening, the supplier had indicated that technology would be shipped to the District before the first day of school, which remains September 8, 2020.

Dr. Steinhoff thanked the teachers, support staff, and their representatives for always being available to work closely and collaborate with him and the Pathways to Reopening Task Force to create the best model for educating Penn-Delco students. He noted that Penn-Delco teachers want to teach, and they desperately missed working more directly with their students last Spring.

Other highlights of the Health and Safety plan reiterate the necessity for all students to wear masks while practicing social distancing in the hallways, classrooms, and other public spaces.  Dr. Steinhoff reassured the Board that administration has made purchases of approved PPE, cleaning supplies, face shields, hand sanitizer, and other necessities to keep schools and buses safe.

New hybrid differs from Spring experience

The most recent Penn-Delco parent survey indicated that a clear majority of families desire to have their children return to school for some level of in-person learning. Further, close to fifty-percent responded that they will provide their own transportation for their students.  Penn-Delco buses will, however, continue to run for all students with required safety protocols in place.

The new hybrid plan will offer a learning experience very different from the one experienced by students in the Spring.  Secondary school students will follow a predetermined schedule and will be required to log into classes daily with attendance taken. Students will be accountable for completing work assignments on schedule. All assignments and communication will continue on the Schoology Platform.

Elementary students will also be expected to log into portions of some lessons on days they are home, but will have a less synchronous experience (less time on a computer screen) appropriate for their age and learning style. Those expectations will be considerate of the strain of at-home learning on parent and family schedules of particularly younger students.

Penn-Delco Cyber will deliver virtual learning

The School District recognizes that some families may be uncomfortable sending their children into school for live instruction.  Those families and their students will have the opportunity to sign-up for the newly created Penn-Delco Cyber program (different from Penn-Delco Online Academy) to meet their needs. This newly created Cyber school will deliver parents the same high quality Penn-Delco curriculum taught by Penn-Delco teachers. 

Secondary students would log into virtual classes. Elementary students will be taught by Penn-Delco faculty specifically assigned to cyber students in each grade level.  More information and registration materials will be provided to the Penn-Delco community the week of August 3rd. Any student who chooses Penn-Delco Cyber can transition back to the hybrid, in-person instruction at the end of a marking period.

A day-to-day approach

Clarifying the decision-making process regarding the safety of reopening of schools, Dr. Steinhoff stated:  “School leaders have consistently said that public health safety decisions should be made by public health safety professionals, rather than school officials or board members with limited medical or epidemiology expertise. But at some point a decision must be made."  

He continued: "Some districts will need to go all-virtual, others in-person. For us, since the county health agency overseeing Delaware County school districts has indicated that it is currently safe to reopen schools by following the reopening guidance, we will plan to do just that. If I am told it is not safe, we will respect that direction and adjust accordingly”. 

Ahead of the first day of school, scheduled on September 8th, Dr. Steinhoff recommended that families stay connected to the District website and social media for updates, and also refer to the current Reopening FAQ list that is available on the Penn-Delco website.