Let's do the right thing as we approach Thanksgiving

Let's do the right thing as we approach Thanksgiving
Posted on 11/19/2020

Greetings!

As we close in on the Thanksgiving holiday, please know how thankful I am to be your superintendent. It is a position that I love and I take very seriously. I am blessed to serve the Quakertown Community. Most of you know that educating your children and preparing them for life after graduation is our ultimate goal, and my personal passion. That responsibility goes hand-in-hand with maintaining their health and safety along with the health and well-being of our district employees, without whom we cannot accomplish our mission.  I have said dozens of times that safety is our #1 priority.  These thoughts are front and center in my daily decision-making.  

Special thanks to all of you who have shared your thoughts, experience, and wisdom with the Board and me since we reopened Quakertown schools on September 14th.  Some have been sincerely critical, while at the same time supportive of the hard work that goes into navigating the fluid environment of state and local decision-making.  Others have been very positive and appreciative.  One thing for sure in all of this is our genuine desire to be completely transparent with you and all of our Quakertown employees.  We want you to have the information that we are allowed to share for you to make the best decision for your child(ren).  With the growing number of COVID-19 positive cases around us and amongst us in Quakertown, contact tracing becomes more detailed and decision-making becomes more detailed and complex.  I am concerned!  For example, for multiple reasons, the district had 10 more teacher absences on Monday compared to a week before.  We had 25 unfilled substitute positions that day.  

Next week marks the start of the Holiday Season, traditionally a wonderful time where families and friends get together to celebrate.  I’m respectfully asking you to please carefully consider what activities your child(ren) participate in.  Please encourage them NOT to attend large gatherings/parties with their friends.  We know that these types of activities have the potential to become super spreader events.  In addition, when word spreads of these types of activities, it strikes concern, even fear in some of our parents, teachers and support staff.  This, in turn, makes it harder to keep schools open and staffed, similar to what happened in Southern Lehigh High School a few weeks ago. We want our schools to be able to remain open for live instruction. Student parties or events in the community will have ripple effects that may necessitate closing a school for safety reasons and/or staffing shortfalls. We are aware of one such event rumored to be taking place this weekend.  Please help us so that we can continue to keep our schools open for live instruction.

As you are aware from my Tuesday email, I closed Pfaff Elementary School for live in-school instruction for the rest of this week - three school days. This was done after gathering the facts, conducting our own contact tracing, weighing the options by first considering the QCSD Health & Safety Plan and PA Department of Education guidance, and then making a decision.  I felt well supported in that decision.  I am not aware of a single concern from the Board nor community that I did so.  Barring additional positive case reports or other information, live instruction will resume at Pfaff on Monday. Know that we conduct a similarly detailed process every time we are notified of a positive case, though we often cannot share most of the details behind our analysis due to medical privacy laws. I am surrounded by an awesome team of nurses, principals, and other professionals who are doing a wonderful job working 7 days a week through this pandemic.

Quakertown is certainly not alone in dealing with issues caused by a pandemic that is not receding. Nearby, Council Rock North High School was closed in October. Emmaus and Parkland high schools in the Lehigh Valley are currently shut down. The Montgomery County Department of Health went one step further, closing all schools for two weeks beginning Nov. 23, a mandate officials described as a necessary attempt to help slow the surge in coronavirus infections.   So far, the PA Departments of Health & Education have empowered districts to look at the facts on the ground in their own local communities and to do what is best for their students, faculties and staff.  We are diligently doing so every day.  

As we reopened our secondary schools this week, I walked the halls and visited classrooms to chat with teachers and staff to listen to what they are thinking, and to hear their concerns. Frankly, most are concerned about what is going on outside our schools, across our community and region.  They are watching other districts close, while we remain open.  They are concerned about having more students inside their classrooms, and most definitely more crowded hallways during class changes.  But, they also understand their purpose and have a passion to teach our students and they are excited to have more of their students in front of them each day.  They also have confidence in our protocols and decision making processes because they are working to keep schools safe for in-person learning.  

As we continue to monitor what’s happening both inside our district and around us. I’m thankful for the School Board’s and your continued support of our decision making.  As always, the School Board and I appreciate your feedback and thoughts. We may be reached at Board@qcsd.org.  I may be reached by responding to this blog.

 Bill Harner

 Superintendent

 wharner@qcsd.org

 @BillHarner


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