Re-entry Planning Parent Update

Re-entry Planning Parent Update
Posted on 07/11/2020

Re-entry Planning

July 11, 2020

Dear MASD Parents/Guardians:

I hope this communication finds you healthy and enjoying the summer despite the continued COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past five weeks I have been meeting weekly with three stakeholder groups – administrators, teachers/staff, and parents – to develop a re-entry plan for the start of the 2020-21 school year in August. The dialogue at those meetings, coupled with the data obtained from the surveys of both parents and teachers/staff and CDC guidelines, has provided context for the development of the PDE-required Health & Safety Plan for the Phased Reopening of Schools which must be approved by each school district’s Board of School Directors before in-person instruction can resume.

The MASD School Board has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, July 21 at 7:00 p.m. during which the Health & Safety Plan will be presented and then voted upon by the Board. Five (5) affirmative votes of the Board are required in order to move forward with the plan to return to school.

We understand that parents are very anxious to know the District’s plan for instruction, so I want to provide you with a preview of the key concepts of our planning:

  • The administration will be recommending that the first day of school be changed from Monday, August 24 to Monday, August 31. This change is necessary to provide teachers with an additional week of professional development time to fully prepare to deliver instruction in both an in-person and online environment. This change will not alter the ending date for the school year in June 2021. If Board approved, the new academic calendar for 2020-21 will be released to the public on July 22.
  • As of this time, the PA General Assembly does not intend to waive the 180-day (or 900/990-hours) requirement for the 2020-21 school year. This means that whatever schooling option is selected for students, attendance will be taken daily and students will be expected to participate either in-person or online daily to meet the requirements for compulsory attendance
  • It is critical that students return to rigorous instruction effective the start of the 2020-21 school year. Students will be held accountable for work completion, take tests, and engage in other authentic performance tasks in order for teachers to determine mastery and arrive at grades. Leniency was granted during the 4th quarter of the 2019-20 school year to account for the fact that districts were not prepared to quickly transition to full remote learning. It is imperative that we return to robust instruction and also work to catch up students who may have fallen victim to the “COVID-19 slide” in skill and concept mastery. An academic plan is being developed to address those needs.
  • As you are aware, PA Secretary of Health Rachel Levine’s recent executive order now requires that all students and employees wear masks in school. In a Zoom call with PA Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera on July 9, he reiterated to superintendents that masks are mandatory for all in schools (including on school buses). A few exceptions will exist for medical reasons and eating/drinking, but for the most part, the wearing of masks will be the new norm when schools open in the fall.
  • The District recognizes that many parents do not support their child wearing a mask in school. Therefore, the District is planning to offer a menu of options so you can make the best decision that meets the needs of your child(ren) and family. We understand that the options will trigger many questions. The intent of this preview is just to let you know that options will be available. After the Health & Safety Plan is adopted by the School Board, the District administration will release the following information to parents:
  1. A comprehensive guide explaining each option below in greater detail which will be posted to the District website and sent via SchoolMessenger email;
  2. A series of Zoom sessions will be scheduled by grade level and/or school to have your questions answered about each model so you can make an informed decision;
  3. A survey will then be sent out for each family to select the option they wish to enroll their child(ren) in for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

OPTIONS:

  1. Full reopening – This option is available for elementary students and low incident K-12 special education classrooms that are self-contained - Students return to brick-and-mortar schools with social distancing and all other safety precautions in effect (including daily temperature checks and pre-screening upon arrival and the wearing of masks). Students would spend most of their day in one classroom with teachers rotating in, as needed. Lunch will be eaten in the classrooms.
  2. Blended model – This option is available for Middle and High School students. In order to promote social distancing at the secondary level where students travel between classes all day, the student body would be divided into two cohorts. Cohort A would attend school in person two days per week (M/T) while Cohort B would be participating synchronously using remote learning. Cohort B would attend school in person two days per week (Th/F) while Cohort A would be participating synchronously using remote learning. All students would have one instructional day per week (W) that is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous remote learning. Note: This model requires the approval of the PA Secretary of Education because it does not include 180 days of in-person instruction.
  3. Full-time cyber school K – 12 – MASD currently offers a full-time online learning option called Raider Academy for Grades 6 – 12 using courses through Edison Learning. The District plans to expand this full-time online learning option to elementary students K-5 using Accelerate Ed courses so that those parents who are not comfortable sending their children back to school can remain on the MASD rolls but learn remotely from home full-time using a robust, standards-aligned online digital curriculum in which students work at their own pace. Daily attendance is still expected but students set their own schedules with an expectation that a certain amount of time is spent online learning each day of the week when school is in session.
  4. Scaffolded model - K-12 - Students may attend school through a combination of in-person and remote learning at parents’ discretion – This model uses MASD curriculum which is supplemented through Zoom recorded lessons and digital content; not the pre-packaged vendor curriculum offered through Raider Academy. This model helps reduce the number of students in the schools for social distancing with the parent deciding how many days per week the student will attend in person. Note: This model also requires the approval of the PA Secretary of Education since students would not be 100% online or 100% in person.

Lastly, a brief 2 – 3 question survey will be sent out the week of July 20 to determine exactly which families plan to transport their child(ren) to school to help promote social distancing on our school buses and which families plan to have their child(ren) ride the school bus in AM and/or PM for 2020-21. Transportation and homeroom teacher assignments will be available in Power School on August 14, 2020.

In conclusion, this information is provided to give parents a preview of the planning work that has been occurring over the past five weeks. More detailed information is forthcoming after the July 21 School Board meeting. Thank you in advance for your cooperation as we work collaboratively to reopen our schools in the safest manner possible for both employees and students. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via email at lsuski@raiderweb.org.

Sincerely,

Lori A. Suski, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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