Working together to keep learning on track

Working together to keep learning on track
Posted on 04/13/2020
Good afternoon!

What a unique and unprecedented Spring Break. If you celebrated the Passover or Easter holiday, I hope it was truly special for you and your family. For me, it was probably the most emotional Easter Sunday of my life! I never would have thought in a thousand years that I would be sitting at home in my PJs watching two Easter services - East Swamp in Quakertown and the National Cathedral from Washington, DC, then watching Andrea Boccelli sing from Milan to an empty Duomo Cathedral and be a part of a live audience of 22 million across the world. Having sung as a West Point cadet in the National Cathedral and understanding its majesty, and traveled throughout Italy and knowing its splendor, history, and busy streets which were desolate yesterday, it was quite an emotional day. By the time Andrea Boccelli got to Amazing Grace, I wept - a lot. My own two kids are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, as military medical officers, one in Africa! My family is blessed.

As you probably know, last Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Immediately afterward, the PIAA announced there would be no Spring Sports for hundreds of our Quakertown athletes, and left it up in the air what our sports programs will be doing this summer and fall. I could feel the gasp of air from our community after both announcements. It was a setback and disappointment, especially to the members of the Class of 2020 and their families. The Quakertown Community High School Administration team is working with Class of ‘20 sponsors and seniors to determine how we move forward to celebrate their awesomeness and graduation - before and after the academic year is over.

Most of you have questions for us. I apologize that we do not have answers for you yet! But, please send your questions to me anyway. We will create a FAQ. Until the Governor’s stay-at-home order for Bucks County is lifted AND we determine that it is safe to bring students, faculty and staff back into our buildings, there will not be any movement in our schools except for key and essential personnel. In the meantime, we are vigorously implementing a comprehensive Continuity of Education Plan. I highly encourage you and your student(s) to engage with their academic work and their teachers. It is truly remarkable how quickly our teachers made the paradigm shift none of us could have imagined. They are - we are - all committed to delivering quality learning opportunities to your child(ren), and we are getting better every day in the virtual environment. We understand, however, there is nothing that replaces a great teacher in your child(ren)’s classroom.

One question our district team has been reading up on and asking is will learning gaps develop for students as a result of the pandemic? The topic of “summer learning loss” - when students are routinely out of school for 10 straight weeks - is critical in education. We see that pundits, researchers, reporters, and educational practitioners are all responding with a resounding YES! Harvard professor James S. Kim is probably the most well-known author on “summer learning loss.” Just over the summer, for regular education students K-5, reading loss is about 20 percent, with math loss at 27 percent. It’s much higher for middle and 9th grade students. Without active participation in our optional academic programs, student learning loss will be significantly magnified over a 20-week period. Planning for how to make up for this loss next year is at the top of our agenda! We can’t let the pandemic cause us to lose a year of student growth.

Last Thursday evening, we had our first virtual School Board meeting, and had more than 70 people “drop-in” to watch. We had two questions from ‘“the audience,” both from parents, about high school graduation activities. The Board delayed its initial vote on the 2020-21 Proposed Final Budget. Before accepting the Administration’s recommendation for a no tax increase budget, they wanted more details and implications from the Governor’s decision not to reopen schools and revenue losses expected next school year due to the pandemic.

Please know how important you are to us! Staying involved in your child(rens) education is more important than ever! Please let us know how we can help, if you have connectivity issues, or anything else. Working together will keep their learning on track!

Thank you for reading.

Bill Harner


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @billharner
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