Much to consider in final days of school year

Much to consider in final days of school year
Posted on 06/06/2021

Good afternoon!  Hope you had a delightful weekend and have enjoyed the sunshine and warming temps.  On a historical note, today marks the 77th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion.  Thousands of Americans gave their lives June 6th, 1944 to break the back of the German defenses at Normandy.  Think about the movies Band of Brothers or the beginning of Saving Private Ryan to capture the essence of the sacrifices young men made on the beaches and coastal areas that day.  We know that freedom is not free!  


By now, all of you have received the School Board’s newsletter in the mail. It highlighted so many stories about some of the many student successes this year and important financial items of interest!  It’s been incredibly inspiring to be out in schools and attending activities again and to see our students performing in end-of-year concerts and musicals.  Our Varsity Softball qualified for states this season, and are still at it!  Hats off to our staff, faculty and coaches who have worked so hard to provide a bit of “normalcy” in our students’ lives.


Last week, we had two important Board level activities - a combined Finance and Facilities meeting on Thursday, and a Board Retreat yesterday.  The Finance Committee will be bringing forward a unanimous recommendation for another no-tax increase budget.  It includes a recommendation to support the immediate implementation of Full Day Kindergarten for all kindergarten students.  We expect that this will require us to add teachers during a period of declining enrollment.  Therefore, with a no-tax increase budget for the second year in a row there may be financial pressure points that the Board and Administration will be challenged with in the future.  The Administration left with an understanding that we still need a plan for building a permanent home for our varsity baseball team.  There is also a need to seek a solution for renovating Quakertown Elementary School.  At the Board Retreat, the board participated in a workshop on Board Governance and discussed the evaluation process for commissioned officers.


The Board will also be quite busy this week at its last meeting of this remarkable year.  Besides approving the Final Budget for the 2021-22 school year, the Board will consider the approval of the state mandated Comprehensive Plan. Out of If you recall, the Comprehensive Plan was due this past November, but PDE gave districts a one year COVID extension, so this plan will provide strategic direction for QCSD for the next four years. Connected directly to the first year of work in the Comprehensive Plan are the Superintendent Goals for 2021-22.  They were shared at the Board’s Retreat, and are up for adoption, too.


The School Board and I have received several emails asking us to disregard the CDC’s recommendation and the state masking mandate in schools.  Parents have pointed out last week’s meeting in Central Bucks where Dr. David Damsker, the Bucks County Health Director supported a CB Board decision to unmask for remaining days in school.  A day later, the Council Rock school board followed Dr. Damsker’s recommendation and Penrridge did the same under the guise of outside temperatures.  Additionally, on Thursday, I attended a meeting with Dr. Damsker present at which his recommendation to the CB Board was discussed..  At that meeting, he informed the 13 superintendents and Intermediate Unit Director that he did not have a legal opinion that supports his recommendation to unmask and disregard the state mandate that is still in effect. 


Most of you, if not all of you, know that the QCSD Board of School Directors have overwhelmingly supported and encouraged our community to support Dr. Damsker’s recommendations where he was delegated the authority by the state for health and safety.  He has been a personal advisor to many of our Board members over the past year, and he has spoken at several QCSD Board meetings since the end of July 2020.  In this case, under a state mandate, it is the Board’s direction that our district does not have the right to ignore a state mandate, though many disagree with it.  Additionally, the Board is sensitive to the health and safety concerns of many parents who have made their decision on our current live instruction mode based on the masking rules being in place.  We only have 11 days of school left, and unless the state mandate to mask in schools is lifted, QCSD will follow the state order.  


The Board provided previous guidance to the Administration about not requiring masks when local temperature conditions or physical activity create a health and safety issue. These exceptions are permitted under the mask order. This does not include when temperatures are hot outside, and students, staff and faculty are working inside an air conditioned building.  For example, Quakertown Elementary School is the only school without air conditioning, and conditions in hot weather may require an exception to requiring a mask.  Another condition we are closely monitoring is outside activities, such as physical education, sports, end-of-year activities, and graduation.  Given the predicted temperatures, principals, teachers, and coaches have the authority to make a decision to not require masks for their students when conditions warrant. Please note that any student may still wear a mask if they want to, even if masks are not required at a particular time.


The end of the school year is near.  We expect that when we reopen in the fall, there will not be a mask mandate in place.  So for the last few weeks of this school year, I respectfully request your support of our principals, teachers and staff as we follow the state masking order until such time it is lifted.  Thank you.


Bill Harner

Superintendent, QCSD

wharner@qcsd.org

@BillHarner


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