Deadlines for online learning, health and safety plans

Deadlines for online learning, health and safety plans
Posted on 07/19/2021

Greetings from Tennessee!  


Over the past couple of weeks, the School Board received a handful of emails from parents anxious to learn more about our plans for reopening to students on August 30th.  As I stated before in my two previous blogs, we will reopen our schools with education, activities, and sports as we did in a pre-COVID environment - without masks.  Naturally, masks may be worn, but they are optional.  To satisfy mandates from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education, every district must submit a Health And Safety Plan draft for the 2021-22 school year by July 31st. Then, the Board must approve and submit the Plan to PDE no later than September 1st. Quakertown’s Health & Safety Plan will be up for consideration at the August 12th School Board meeting.


It is the School Board’s full intention to follow the guidance of Dr. David Damsker, Director of the Bucks County Health Department, this school year.  In turn, QCSD’s Draft Health And Safety Plan for the 2021-22 school year has been reviewed twice by Dr. Damsker before we published the Plan today. Please share your feedback with the Board and me at Board@qcsd.org prior to the August meeting.  


Because of the remaining health and safety concerns held by some of you, especially in regards to the Delta variant, Quakertown will be offering a virtual online option this school year called Q Flex.  While we recommend everyone return to live instruction next month when the new school year begins, Q Flex will provide rigorous online instruction for those who prefer to remain out of school.  Q Flex supports Kindergarten through 12th grade students with curriculum and course work aligned with Pennsylvania standards. Classes will be taught by either Quakertown teachers, or Pennsylvania certified teachers who work with our course providers. All students enrolled in our program have the support of their designated school guidance counselor and a virtual liaison.  


A couple notes of caution about Q Flex.  First, what grade level your child(ren) is in will determine the level of support and involvement expected of parents, e.g. K-5th grade parents must participate as learning coaches with their child(ren), 6th to 8th parents will need to monitor their child(ren)’s work, 9th to 12th parents should expect their child(ren) to work independently.  Second, Q Flex is not designed to support students and families to pivot back and forth between live-in-school and virtual instruction learning models.  Once the Q Flex enrollment window closes and the school year begins, students enrolled in Q Flex will remain in Q Flex.  The earliest a student may return to live instruction is the second semester and approved by the principal on a space available basis.  To learn more about Q Flex click on this link.  To register for Q Flex by the July 30th deadline, click on this link.


Coupled with the Health & Safety Plan for the 2021-22 school year is the $4.5 million of ESSER federal funding that is allocated to Quakertown. The draft Quakertown ESSER Funding Plan was presented at the June 10th Board meeting.  The ESSER federal grant program requires districts to meet several specifications to receive the funding.  The first is that Quakertown must follow CDC Guidance with our Health & Safety Plan.  Another is to receive public input and feedback from our stakeholders - you!  The essence of our ESSER Funding Plan is focused on the myriad of academic, social-emotional, and mental health issues that resulted from the pandemic. Please take the time to review the Plan and provide your thoughts and feedback.  The federal dollars are one time money and must be specifically targeted to these needs.


The last topic I would like to address are serious and valid safety concerns brought up by a couple parents with the Board and me. They asked what the district is going to do to prevent students from bringing weapons to school.  My answer:  School Safety is a school community team effort.  We will do our part!  We need students and parents to do their part.  Gun ownership has grown dramatically over the past four years to 42% of American households having at least one gun.  Securing firearms properly and teaching children about safety and reporting unsafe acts is everyone’s responsibility. 


Background of the problem: Right before the end of the school year, a middle school student brought a loaded pistol to school in a book bag. Only later that evening, did the Administration learn about a rumor that a gun was brought to school. It came from a Safe-To-Say-Something tip, and a subsequent voicemail left on the Strayer reception’s phone.  


Immediately after the S2SS tip was received, the School Resource Officer contacted the parent of the alleged student perpetrator. The parent informed the SRO that it was impossible for the student to be in possession of a gun. The SRO asked the parent to come into school early before school in the morning to discuss the rumor.  After further discussion and investigation that morning, the SRO learned that the parent did not check their child’s book bag where in fact the gun was found.  Further, the student perpetrator previously showed the gun off to friends (other students) at home and to students on the bus the previous day.  No one reported the weapon in school until six hours after the school day was over via the S2SS tipline.  During the SRO’s investigation, multiple parents of student witnesses would not allow their child to answer questions for fear of being a snitch.  As Principal Bubser and her leadership team communicated via a video to students and parents, reminding students they are not “snitching” when they share information that protects the safety of everyone. 


This serious safety violation came on the heels of multiple threats to specific staff members at Strayer Middle School and threats at Quakertown Community High School earlier this school year.  In this case, the parent not only did not cooperate with law enforcement, the parent obstructed justice in hiding evidence and would not cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation.  Multiple firearms were in the home and were not allowed by court order, in this case, to be there.  If you recall this investigation involved federal, state and local law enforcement officials to crack the case.  Both cases chilled many of us with the possibilities of what might have happened and the lack of parental oversight that compromised the safety of others in our school community.  


I guarantee that Quakertown Community School District will continue to do everything possible within our power to keep your child(ren) safe. We are committed to spending time during the school day to conducting safety drills, training counselors, school psychologists, and administrators in threat assessment, conducting tabletop drills with local police, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on passive and active facilities improvements to protect your child(ren) and our staff and faculty members in schools.  Improving Quakertown’s school safety posture has been a Superintendent Goal every year.  School safety is ever present in our planning and discussions.  However, school safety must start at home by having discussions about what needs to be reported and how firearms are secured.  It must include active parenting that supports safety for all.  


Thank you for reading and checking out the informative links to our Health And Safety Plan, ESSER Funding, and virtual instructional model called Q Flex.  We would greatly appreciate your feedback.  Thank you.  


Bill Harner

Superintendent

@BillHarner

wharner@qcsd.org

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