In the coming school year, the only certainty will be uncertainty.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt what was once routine, students and families will be tested repeatedly on their flexibility in a reality driven by virus transmission. Cumberland Valley School District started that process Monday with its first day of classes.
Like everyone else, local school districts are trying to navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic. As districts plan for reopening this fall, a common practice has been the development of a range of delivery options from fully remote online learning to in-person instruction to hybrids combining elements of both.
Often referred to as “tiers,” the options take into account how the need for social distancing could impact student capacity on school buses and in classrooms. As a rule, the tier that is in effect at any given time will depend on how the district interprets guidance from such agencies as the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though a district could decide upon a starting tier for the year, what happens after the first day of school depends on the spread and infection pattern of COVID-19 and what guidance is handed down by state and federal authorities.
“We outline the tiers in order to plan for all possible contingencies,” said Michael Gogoj, director of curriculum and instruction for the Carlisle Area School District.
“We may experience multiple tiers in the school year,” he said. “We may not experience one or more of them at all. They are not linear. We may find ourselves moving between tiers based on the guidance or requirements from our state government.”
It is conceivable that buildings within the same district could operate under different tiers depending on their situation. It is also possible that a shift in tiers could be sudden without any buffer days to allow for a transition.
As an alternative, all the local districts encourage families to consider enrolling their child into a cyber school academy that the district operates either in-house or through a cooperative agreement with the Capital Area Intermediate Unit.
Below is a rundown of the status of local districts and has been updated as of Aug. 31 for the five core school districts in The Sentinel coverage area:
BIG SPRING SCHOOL DISTRICT www.bigspringsd.org
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Tuesday, Sept. 8 (approved at July 27 school board meeting)
- Fully remote. All students take online lessons.
- Hybrid schedule. Students are divided into Groups A and B. During each week, there will be two in-person instructional days in school and three fully remote instructional days at home.
- All students are back in school with significant safety protocols in place.
STARTING TIER: Tier Two—hybrid schedule
- . The school board made the decision July 27 as part of the district’s “Staying Open Plan.”
SUPERINTENDENT RICHARD FRY:
- “Within Tier 2, all grade levels will attend school in a hybrid format with a blend of face-to-face instruction and remote learning, with the exception of kindergarten and some specific students with documented special needs. The decision to start in Tier 2 is based on the current level of viral spread within our region coupled with our ability to balance social distancing expectations, bussing protocols and support of specific protocols within each of our buildings.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
CARLISLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Tuesday, Sept. 8
PROPOSED TIERS: Staff and administrators are working to finalize the building-level details that go into implementing each of the four tiers of operation. Every tier under the Carlisle plan calls for a return to the grading and assessment protocols that existed before the outbreak of COVID-19. At the end of each marking period, elementary students will receive a standards-based report card while students at the secondary level will receive a letter grade in each subject.
- Fully remote. All students take online lessons including livestream instruction through a platform like Zoom. Each student will continue to receive a personal device — an iPad for elementary and middle school students and a laptop for high school students. Lesson plan follows a traditional model with deadlines on assignments occurring as needed.
- Hybrid schedule. All students will be assigned to either Group A or Group B. The groups correspond to a schedule of two “A” Days, two “B” Days and one “C” Day each week. Group A students will attend school for in-person instruction on the two “A” Days while Group B will attend school on the two “B” Days. On “C” Day, every student will be at home taking online lessons while district maintenance does a thorough cleaning of each building.
TIERS THREE AND FOUR:
- All students are back in school for in-person instruction at the same time. The difference between the tiers will be in the level of modifications the district would need to make to ensure that proper precautions are in place. For example, at Tier Three, half the students will eat in the cafeteria and half will eat in the classrooms. At Tier Four, all students will eat in the cafeteria.
STARTING TIER: Tier Two hybrid model
- that includes two days a week of in-person instruction mixed with at-home virtual instruction.
SUPERINTENDENT CHRISTINA SPIELBAUER:
- “These decisions have been among the most challenging that I have faced as a superintendent. There are few clear or right answers, and I recognize the challenges which our families and our staff will encounter. But at this moment in time, I feel that presenting a concrete decision would be misleading and inappropriate given our turbulent and ever-changing situation.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Click on the “Start of School Plans” banner on the homepage of the district website at www.carlisleschools.org.
CUMBERLAND VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Monday, Aug. 31
PROPOSED TIERS: The district Health and Safety Plan outlines three models of content delivery — fully online, hybrid and in-person instruction. Details have been announced on the following starting configuration:
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS:
- All grade K-5 students will attend school every day for in-person instruction grouped into classes of 20 or fewer students. Students will mostly stay with their class throughout the day and will likely receive meals in the cafeteria or their classrooms on a rotating basis. Start and end times for elementary classes will be adjusted to allow buses to run at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing.
SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS:
- The district intends to place all students in the same household on the same daily schedule. Middle school and high school students will be divided into two groups under a hybrid teaching model. For example, students in Group A may attend school for in-person instruction on Mondays and Wednesdays and receive fully remote online instruction at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students in Group B will attend school for in-person instruction on Tuesdays and Thursdays with online lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays. Fridays will be used by the teaching staff to develop and refine content. Classes will total 20 or fewer students who may go to other classes in their building based on their schedule.
- See above.
SUPERINTENDENT DAVID CHRISTOPHER:
- “Our plans need to be flexible and stackable. We need to be able to move back-and-forth, depending on what is happening with the virus and what is happening with the building.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Click on the “Back to School Blueprint” banner on the homepage of the district website at www.cvschools.org. This link gives visitors access to information about the plan to reopen Cumberland Valley schools. Visitors can find a list of frequently asked questions at www.cvschools.org/about_us/back_to_school_blueprint_-_2020-21/frequently_asked_questions.
MECHANICSBURG AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL:
- Tuesday, Sept. 8
- On June 23, Superintendent Mark Leidy presented options for the phased reopening of district schools. Those options include fully remote learning, in-person instruction and a hybrid model combining elements of both content delivery models. The hybrid model would offer students a mixture of in-person and remote classes on alternating days of the week resulting in school buses and classrooms operating at 50% capacity. Under the hybrid model, the district would “maximize common family days” by busing students from the same families on the same days of the week.
STARTING TIER: Hybrid model (decided at Aug. 12 school board meeting)
- . Students return this year on Sept. 8 to a new Hybrid Phase schedule system that splits the school day between traditional classroom instruction and remote learning at home at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The hybrid model was initiated by the district this year in an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
SUPERINTENDENT MARK LEIDY:
- “We want every student to return to a full face-to-face model of learning as soon as we can. We want to see their faces and for them to see ours. We do not, however want to return to a situation we had last spring where schools were completely closed.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.mbgsd.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=1877008&type=d&pREC_ID=2031053
SOUTH MIDDLETON SCHOOL DISTRICT
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Tuesday, Sept. 8
PROPOSED TIERS: Elementary school students will attend face-to-face in-school instruction five days a week with instructional time prioritized to support students in the core content areas of reading, writing and math. Under this plan, students will attend daily creative arts classes and daily morning meetings. Meanwhile, students in grades 6-12 will be in a blended model of partial face-to-face and partial remote learning.
- Secondary students will be divided into two groups — A and B — and will come to an in-person setting every other day. The alternating days will follow the same six-day cycle the district had in place in prior school years.
- See above.
SUPERINTENDENT MATTHEW STRINE:
- “We understand that our children’s education and safety are impacted by our collective decisions, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We deeply appreciate your feedback, trust, and support in this process and look forward to continuing our work together as a school community. Our goal is not to simply reach the end of this difficult period in time. Instead, our goal is to reach higher!”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Click on the “South Middleton School District’s Back to School Master Plan” banner on the homepage of the district website at www.smsd.us. This will give visitors access to a link to an update prepared by Superintendent Matthew Strine. This update includes information on the three tiers of instruction, the instructional model update, health protocols, face covering protocols, the confirmed case procedure, an interim school closure matrix and details on how the district intends to support social and emotional wellness.
Email Joseph Cress at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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