Planning for multiple educational settings

Planning for multiple educational settings
Posted on 05/25/2020
Good evening!

As we wind down the academic year and begin to videotape our Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony tomorrow, I wanted to share with you that we have begun in earnest our planning to reopen schools this coming fall. Several of you have reached out to Board members and me about your initial thoughts and expectations for next year. As you would expect, parent preferences cover the full gamut. No doubt, every one of you are doing your very best with the unprecedented situation the pandemic forced us all into. We are grateful for your support and candid communication.

With the ever-changing news, opinions, research findings, and work situation, coupled with your child(ren) making the emotional and intellectual pivot to online learning, we know it has been extremely stressful for you and your children. It has been the same for school leaders and for teachers. Superintendents across the country are sifting through the research, recommendations, and politics of COVID-19, to make the optimal decision for their local community, students and staff. Here locally, Bucks County superintendents continue to meet two to three times a week to listen to pundits on health, education, school finance, and safety.

I often hear, “we must get students back into schools.” I couldn't agree more!!! However, putting your child(ren) back into a classroom safely is not that simple. For students, it's much more than social-distancing and wearing a mask. What’s age appropriate for masking, or what do we do with students who refuse to mask? What will be class? No more than eight students! Another significant challenge is protecting our faculty and staff with a myriad of student contacts each day in a classroom, hallway or workroom. We know that COVID-19 has devastating outcomes for adult populations. We have lost two parents, and an employee's spouse to the virus. Looking at our own demographics of faculty and staff, administrators, even bus drivers, we must be cautious and proactive about how we reopen our schools.

Looking forward, we know that flexibility and patience must be our collective hallmark. For example, the Continuity of Education Plan that we created in March will run its course in June. The Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Governor have yet to modify their directives and guidance for next school year. We certainly know they will provide it, but when?

We are certainly not flying blind! Providing a high-quality education for your child(ren) is our mission and purpose. Quakertown teachers are awesome at doing that - no matter what the environment or venue. Uppermost in our thinking and strategy is providing for the safety of students, teachers, staff, and administrators. It is always my top priority So, we are planning for multiple educational scenarios - or settings - this fall, and expect that we will be required to change at least once or twice during the 2020-21 school year.

Two weeks ago, after talking with the Board, along with teacher and staff leadership, we created several task force workgroups that are charged with developing the plans for opening school fall. The workgroups include: Virtual Instruction, Equity, Meeting the Social-Emotional Needs and Building Community in a Virtual Environment, and Safety in Live Environment. The task forces are co-led by principals and district office staff, and will be joined by teachers and support staff members. As a part of the process to inform each of the workgroups, we will be asking students, teachers and parents to complete surveys to inform their work. You should expect that we do this again during the year.

At the link is our first parent survey that asks you very important questions about instruction and school operations. Please complete the survey no later than Thursday, May 28th. Your opinion and feedback do matter and will inform the Board, the task force workgroups and me about your current thinking. We will use it to guide us in the development of work over the next few weeks.

Thank you for reading, and for your input, and support! Your feedback is critically important to us during these turbulent times as we navigate the district and your child(ren)’s education over the next year or two.

Have a good evening!

Bill Harner
[email protected]
Twitter: @BillHarner
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