State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

SCASD Plans for In-Person Classes, Expanded Virtual Option in the Fall

by on June 29, 2020 3:51 PM

State College Area School District is planning to offer all students the option of attending class in-person or enrolling in its Virtual Academy cyber option this fall, Superintendent Bob O'Donnell wrote in a message to district families on Friday.

The district has developed a draft a COVID-19 health and safety plan as mandated by the Department of Education, which requires plans to follow health department and Centers for Disease Control guidelines and must be approved by the school board before schools reopen. Health and safety, educational model and operations committees have been working on the SCASD plan with guidance from health professionals.

Feedback is being accepted through the end of the day on Tuesday and the school board is expected to vote on a final plan on July 6.

"We are planning to provide all students with the opportunity to attend school in a safe manner through our adherence to the district’s Health and Safety Plan," O'Donnell wrote.

That will include social distancing of six feet and requiring all students, faculty and staff to wear masks, which O'Donnell said "are critical to the effectiveness of our contract tracing."

Elementary students will be provided daily, full-day in-school learning. 

Secondary students, however, will be provided full-day in-school learning every other day, "along with asynchronous experiences when not in school," O'Donnell wrote. Students with specific learning needs will have the opportunity to be in school every day.

The district also will develop plans for each student with complex special needs on case-by-case basis.

For buses, guidelines include scheduled cleaning and disinfection between routes, providing drivers with masks and gloves, hand sanitizers on all buses and signage and reminders about masking and distancing.

Because of distancing guidelines, bus capacity will be reduced.

"Our safety team is discussing separate guidelines for bus safety and social distancing at this time. This includes the guidelines from the CDC and WHO," the draft health and safety plan states. "We are working to clarify this detail and will bring the team’s recommendation to the July 2 Board committee meeting and the July 9 full Board meeting. 

"Regardless of the recommendation, we will need many parents to help transport students to and from school. This is due to much reduced bus capacity."

Bus safety measures may also include staggering, adjusting and extending pick up and drop off times and changes to loading processes.

Plans for in-person instruction assume that Centre County remains in the green phase of reopening.

"Should the governor move us into yellow, we will shut down schools and in-school instruction, moving immediately into remote instruction for students," O'Donnell wrote. "Any remote learning will differ from the “emergency remote” experiences that we utilized this past spring. The new remote learning model is being improved based on student, teacher, and parent feedback."

All K-12 students also will have the option of enrolling in the Virtual Academy, a full-time cyber option which O'Donnell said has been available for secondary students for a number of years and has been "refined... to now include our own faculty."

The Virtual Academy is being expanded for the fall to include K-5 students.

"The program will be aligned with our in-class curriculum, allowing students to make a smooth transition back into school when appropriate," O'Donnell wrote. "A key aspect of our cyber experience is that we will include all of our district’s many student services such as counseling, school psychologists, and social workers."

Families will receive another message this week with more details about the plan for returning to schools and the Virtual Academy. They will then be asked to choose between in-person or virtual instruction for the fall.

The plan is listed as a discussion item on the agenda for tonight's school board meeting.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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