EAST MARLBOROUGH — Leaders of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District discussed reopening options for the fall on Wednesday evening during a virtual Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting.
The task force discussed three plans as options, with enhanced safety measures, for the start of the 2020-21 school year come September.
“The board will vote on the administration's recommended option during the board meeting on Monday, Aug. 3,” said Christa M. Fazio, district communications, on Thursday.
The mission of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board is to: “Empower each student to succeed in life and contribute to society.”
“Administration recommends bringing our youngest learners — K through 3 — in daily in classes with fewer students so that we can maintain six feet of social distancing,” said Superintendent John Sanville on Thursday.
“It is essential that we provide our youngest minds with the educational opportunities and experiences that are best provided in school with our exceptional teachers and their peers," he said. "Our older students can better access learning through a hybrid model that allows for both in-person and distance learning.”
Sanville continued, “This plan meets the needs of our community while being true to our guiding principles of keeping students and staff safe, providing an outstanding educational program, and also meeting the social and emotional needs of all.”
Tory Baratta serves as chairman of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee. Of the three plans presented by the task force on July 29, the third plan called for remote learning only if school closures become again mandated by the state. The first and second options focus on the reopening of schools with various new enhanced safety measures in place.
Education Plan No. 1
The first plan calls for all students to attend school every day for children enrolled in kindergarten up to the third grade. Students from fourth graders to high school students would attend classroom learning on a different schedule, based on a six-day schedule, and would only attend in-person instruction twice a week, with another four days of learning conducted remotely from home.
This plan requires the hiring of up to 21 new teachers to reduce class sizes and ensure six-feet of separation learning for social distancing.
The plan cites rationale for this plan as:
● Supported by administration;
● 82 percent of surveyed parents support some kind of brick-and-mortar plan;
● Majority of the task force support a brick-and-mortar plan;
● Follows mitigation recommendations and requirements outlined by Pennsylvania Department of Health, Chester County Department of Health and the federal government including suggested mandates for 6-feet of social distancing; face masks; hand-washing; frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces; transportation safety measures; and maximum occupancy limitations;
● Provides an effective way to transition students back to school in a safe and careful manner;
● Flexible, this plan can quickly scale up or down; and
● Provides live, synchronous remote instruction.
If the first plan is approved, schools shall reopen in September. Students would be divided by families, meaning siblings would attend in-person classroom instruction on the same days; and based on their last names per groupings.
The first half of students in K-3 grades would return to school on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9. The second half of youngsters would return to the classroom, for the first time since mid-March, on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11.
Older students would return to the classroom on rotating schedules beginning Sept. 8 until Sept. 15.
The district plans to teach all physical education courses outside, weather permitting.
Education Plan No. 2
The second plan is similar to option one, however all students would attend in-person classes only twice a week rather than allowing students in K-3 to attend classes five days a week.
Key highlights of the second plan include:
● In-person instruction for two consecutive days out of a six-day cycle;
● Live, synchronous remote instruction via Zoom for four consecutive days out of a six-day cycle;
● Participation of students would be required.
This plan is supported by the majority of the committee task force.
Education Plan No. 3
The final plan, Option 3, would be in play if Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf mandated Chester County return to a “red phase” which calls for people to stay at home unless traveling for emergency supplies, such as food. This plan would be enhanced and improved from lessons learned during this past spring.
The district said students and parents would be given clearer expectations regarding new remote learning requirements and improved assessment and grading processes would also be implemented.
If students are allowed to return to the classroom in September, the district will enforce new enhanced safety measures including for school bus drivers. For instance, the district is calling for all passengers to wear masks. Drivers would be allowed to remove their masks while driving, but would be required to put them back on while students are entering or exiting the buses.
The district will also be requiring all school children and teens as well as staff to wear masks on school grounds and inside the buildings “with the possible exception of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and students and staff who have trouble breathing.”
Additionally, the district said that “students who refuse to wear a mask must participate in remote learning.”
The district added that “mask breaks will be allowed when outdoors and at least six-feet apart.” Further “six-feet of social distancing will be established in classrooms with desks appropriately placed to achieve this … Procedures to maintain six feet of social distancing in hallways, cafeteria and other common areas will be implemented ... Traffic flow in hallways and in stairwells will be established in a one-way direction to avoid congestion.”
As for music instruction, singing will be banned “unless students are able to go outside and have six feet of social distancing.”
Lastly, “staff may use outdoor spaces when appropriate.”
As of press deadline, there are 3,941 students enrolled within the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District for the 2020-21 school year.
To watch the July 29 discussion, visit: https://youtu.be/jhrqy2t0da0.
To read the plan options, visit: https://go.boarddocs.com/pa/uncf/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BRQNRJ5E06A8.