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State College Area Schools Moving to Remote Learning for 2 Weeks after Thanksgiving

by on November 19, 2020 5:28 PM

State College Area School District will switch to district-wide remote learning for two weeks when classes resume after Thanksgiving break, Superintendent Bob O'Donnell informed families on Thursday.

Schools will remain open for in-person learning as planned on Monday and Tuesday, with Thanksgiving break Wednesday through Friday.

Classes will be remote beginning Nov. 30, with an expected return to in-person classes on Dec. 14.

O'Donnell said that for weeks the district has struggled with staffing shortages because of absences related to COVID-19 as well as usual illnesses. That has resulted in several classes at secondary schools being combined and moved into alternate spaces, while at the elementary level the district has been shifting faculty, staff and substitute teachers among classrooms and buildings.

Staffing challenges also have impacted operations such as food services and transportation.

"While we have been able to manage to this point, and are working to cover classes through next Tuesday, continuing in this manner is not sustainable," O'Donnell wrote. "We are now at a tipping point."

The district's health and safety — which includes physicians, epidemiologists and nurses — also predicted that the situation would worsen during the two weeks after Thanksgiving because of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and expected holiday gatherings.

"Hopefully, this period will give us time to restore our staffing levels, providing a pathway back into schools," O'Donnell wrote.

Since the start of the school year in August, SCASD has had 43 COVID-19 cases among students and staff, though since Sept. 28 schools have remained opened for in-person classes as contact tracing has shown no signs of transmission among students and employees occurring during the school day.

About 73% of district families opted for in-school learning at the start of the fall semester, with the remainder choosing remote and Virtual Academy option. Of the 24 student cases this fall, 22 are among in-person students. For the 19 employee cases, 13 are regularly scheduled faculty and staff and six are as-needed.

O'Donnell said the district is working through logistics for the two weeks of remote learning, with details forthcoming about food services, instructional support centers for students receiving special education services, and support centers for K-6 children of frontline healthcare workers.

"I realize this decision will cause hardships for many of our families." O'Donnell wrote. "Please know, a great deal of care and thought goes into these types of decisions, and they’re always challenging. For nine months now, this virus has taken a toll on our community, and I can only hope that we will be back in schools as soon as possible."

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