Board passes PA-required Health & Safety Plan

The plan is based on guidance and orders from the PA Department of Health and the CDC.
Posted on 07/14/2020
QCSD's Panther logo with a black panther inside a Capital Q.

By Gary Weckselblatt

More than 500 people called into the Quakertown Community School District’s Special Board meeting on the night of July 9 as the Board voted 8-1 in favor of the Health & Safety Plan.

The plan, a requirement of each district by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, was developed by four task force workgroups of administrators, teachers, staff, parents and community consultants. Their research included Virtual Instruction; Equity; Safety In A Live Environment; and Emotional Needs For Building Community In A Virtual Environment.

The plan is based on guidance and orders from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It includes several options for instruction for 2020-21 to meet the needs of as many families as possible. Parents made their choices as part of a registration process using PowerSchool. Here’s a summary of the plan.

“The plan has to be fluid,” said Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards, the district’s Pandemic Coordinator, during the July 9 meeting. Ms. Edwards developed a cover sheet with important updated items. She said she wouldn’t be surprised if there were changes brought to the Board in August as governmental guidance continues to evolve.

Answers to Parents’ Frequently Asked Questions

Instructional options for students include Full Virtual; Full Time Live Instruction (may not be available if the number of students who select it exceeds the capacity of facilities and number of teachers); A/B Live Instruction, where students will attend live school half the time and participate virtually the other half of the time.

The virtual model will be far different than the one developed last March, when Gov. Wolf ordered all school buildings shuttered. Last spring’s online classes were optional and were not graded.

“The virtual model will not be the same as we used last year,” Ms. Edwards said. “It will have attendance and grading, it will be robust. It will not be fully synchronous but it will offer synchronous learning opportunities to meet parents’ and families’ needs.”

Upper Bucks County Technical School students also have options for live or virtual instruction. But their schedule will be determined by the Health and Safety Plan developed and approved by the UBCTS Joint Operating Committee, not QCSD.

In QCSD, if more than 60 percent of students in a building or grade level choose live instruction, the district will stagger attendance, utilize other school locations, or similar strategies to maintain social distancing.

Social distancing requirements will be different at the elementary and secondary levels to reflect the reality that older students are better able to understand and comply with social distancing requirements.

Use of communal spaces will be minimized/eliminated, and traffic patterns will be established in each building to maintain social distancing. When weather permits, classes will utilize outdoor spaces. No visitors or volunteers will be permitted in buildings.

Unless a student is excused because of a 504 Plan or Individualized Educational Plan, QCSD will require masks for students and staff when outside the classroom or in situations where 6-foot social distancing cannot be maintained. This includes in classrooms. 

Masks will be required at all times on school buses and during arrival, dismissal, and similar gatherings of students outside their individual classrooms.

“There is no loophole for not wearing a mask inside a public school building,” Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said.

Board President Kaylyn Mitchell urged parents to get their children used to wearing masks now during the summer. “Please teach them now,” she said. “If you want them to be prepared to return to school, do not wait.”

Director Jennifer Weed, an attorney, said “masking is the one thing every single scientist, epidemiologist and infectious disease doctor I have spoken with agree on completely. We must wear masks to limit the spread of this disease. This is a health issue.”

Director David Ochmanowicz Jr. said the district’s culture should be one where “wearing a mask and social distancing is respectful and the right thing to do. We’re wearing masks for one another, not for ourselves.”

The plan ultimately passed 8-1, with Keith Micucci the lone dissenting vote.

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at [email protected].

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