Dr. Damsker commends QCSD’s health plan

Dr. Damsker commends QCSD’s health plan
Posted on 12/06/2020

Good afternoon!  Hope this finds you and your family well.  Lots to share so I will get right to it.

This past Thursday night, the School Board conducted its annual reorganization and regular monthly Board meeting. The School Board re-elected Kaylyn Mitchell and Ron Jackson, as President and Vice President for a one-year term. I’m happy for both of them as they continue to work hard in these difficult times to provide leadership to this community. A thank you to all Directors for the work they do!  

Following the reorganization meeting, during the Superintendent’s Report, the Board and community received an update from the Redistricting Committee (meeting video 44:34 minutes). The Committee has been meeting since September via Zoom and all meetings are open to the public.  The committee’s charge is as outlined in the presentation, and they are expected to present their recommendations to the School Board in late January.  If you have thoughts or perspective, please send them to the Redistricting Committee at [email protected].  Their work is complex, as will be the Board’s final decision - later in the spring.  

Also at the Board meeting, several other items were reviewed and discussed.  The most important was a “Reopening Quakertown Schools Update #4” by Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards (Board Meeting video at 1 hr 8 minutes).  I also invited Dr. David Damsker, Director of the Bucks County Health Department, to the meeting to share his countywide perspective of COVID and thoughts about the implementation of our Health & Safety plan, so far (Board Meeting video at 1 hr 38 minutes).  He applauded the work of our nurses, our attention to detail and fidelity of implementation of the Health & Safety Plan, and supported the changes to the Plan that the Administration made in the recommendation portion of the presentation.  The Board voted to adopt the recommendations, which can be found on page 24 of the update.

As most of you know, the Secretaries of the PA Departments of Health and Education have ordered school districts in counties in the “Substantial” COVID category, which Bucks County  has been in for four weeks, to attest that they will either educate students remoting or that they agree to follow all aspects of the masking order AND the guidance on enacting temporary closures when positive COVID cases in a building reach certain thresholds.  What is the impact of the latest directives from Harrisburg?  As we head into the winter months, there are three possibilities for moving a school into remote/virtual learning - 1) we meet the threshold for the number of COVID positive cases in a building as prescribed by the PA Departments of Health and Education, 2) we do not have enough teachers and staff to safely open schools, and 3) we have an inclement weather/snow day with the roads unsafe for travel and we go remote.  

The first possibility - meeting the COVID positive threshold will be triggered in accordance with the PDE requirements QCSD agreed to follow in our attestation.  The second possibility is made between individual building principals and me, after exhausting all possibilities of having enough adults in a building to safely open for live instruction. As a reminder, parents will get a “Yellow Alert” message the evening before. The third possibility - an inclement weather event, will be made in collaboration with leaders of Levy School Bus Company, with superintendents of Palisades and Pennridge - as we share Upper Bucks County Technical School, and after personally driving the roads and finding them too slippery to traverse by our young student drivers.  Having school delays most likely will not work for us this year, as every school has a shortened school day.   Please let me be clear, it is the Board’s and Administration’s objective to be in school as much as possible this year! As Dr. Damsker said, we have done remarkably well and fully expect us to continue to do so.

In addition, please take a look at our “COVID-19 By The Numbers” webpage. It’s located in the “Community” section of the district website and is updated each week. It includes information about our COVID-19 procedures and details the number of cases we’ve been dealing with in our schools.

Earlier this fall, the Board and the community heard a presentation on our beginning of year benchmark data, and where students were academically to start the school year.  While there were areas of concern, overall, students were at a better place academically than we expected they would be after the shutdown.  Also in late October, the Board and community heard from our school counseling staff about how our students are doing in terms of their mental health and wellness.  We won’t have mid-year benchmark data until January that tells us how our students are growing this year, but we do have some information from first marking period grades to report.  As Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lisa Hoffman explained to the Board (meeting video 3 hours 2 min) there was a lot of hard work getting done to improve Synchronous Teaching & Learning at the Secondary Level.  Our greatest challenge in student performance is with some students participating virtually in the upper grades.   They have been receiving our teachers', counselors,' and and principals' attention.

Included at the Board meeting as information items were the results of the Reopening Student Surveys at the Elementary and Secondary Levels, District Enrollment data - as of the end of November, and the most recent update on supplies and equipment that the district has purchased to combat COVID-19 in our schools.  

Thank you for reading and I appreciate all of your feedback to the Board and me. 

Have a good evening!

Bill Harner

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