One week in, several COVID and staffing challenges

One week in, several COVID and staffing challenges
Posted on 09/20/2020

Good evening everyone!  Hope you and your family had a good first week of school.  I would like to share a quick summary of how the first week of school went and what we know.

Feedback to the School Board from parents has been mixed.  The negative is mostly an interest in getting back to school five days a week with pre-COVID school hours.  There have also been some concerns about the amount of synchronous instruction in some classes or grade levels. A few comments have been about the instructional model of how teachers are responsible for teaching a set caseload of students that are both virtual and hybrid.  The positive is complementing the hard work in every area of the school district - classroom, front offices, maintenance, et. al., that went into preparing for the new school year, and sharing about very positive experiences their children had this week.  Thank you for the emails.  

To address the negative concerns directly regarding going live five days a week, I respectfully request that you please be patient and let our safety and instructional systems we have worked on throughout the summer take hold. There is nothing more that the School Board and all of us in Quakertown would like then being back to business as usual. To reopen and stay open we have to have professional and support staff members in our schools to teach, support, provide meals, clean our buildings and provide other support services that keep buildings running and safe. Every stakeholder in our school community has significant wants and needs.  It requires  balance, empathy, and patience.  Naturally, it would help that we also show kindness.

Along with every other school district in America, staffing our schools will be our most challenging task. This spring and summer we had 18 teacher retirements, including seven in the four weeks leading up to the start of school.  Additionally, between professional and support staff, we have 17 employees taking the 12 weeks of Family First Cares Act leave.  Many came in the week before school started with their requests.  Naturally, having long term subs ready for the unknown is challenging.

Currently, we are short eight teachers, 21 aides, and seven food service staff members, not to mention SSC custodial staff members.  Not having qualified teachers, long term substitute teachers and aides is problematic for keeping our schools open and safe.  Pressing our teachers and staff to have more students in our schools when we have not practiced and tested out our systems could significantly increase the possibility of closing schools.  Again, we certainly do not want that!

Working through staffing issues and tracking COVID-19 cases, concerns, and rumors will consume most of our time this year. Many of you heard through social media about QCSD holding back transportation services to Faith Christian Academy on two bus routes. This is true!  It was my decision.  We heard only second-hand late Wednesday night about two positive student cases at FCA. We immediately followed our Health and Safety Plan.  This stopped bus services for two FCA student-only routes (Thursday and Friday) until we were able to identify other students who came in close contact with the students who tested positive. Then Friday evening, the Bucks County Health Director informed me that they had identified the close contacts of those two students, so we will be able resume bus services for all students who were not close contacts tomorrow morning, and the rest when their quarantine period is completed.

Late Friday afternoon, I received word that a Quakertown student who attended Upper Bucks County Technical School from Monday to Wednesday, tested positive for COVID-19. The scenario began with a self-report on Wednesday.  We followed the Health and Safety Plan requiring the  quarantining of the student and any siblings.  Contact tracing by the Bucks County Health Department began yesterday.  Currently, we are waiting on the results of who may have been exposed to the two students at UBCTS and/or on the buses to tech before determining how tomorrow will work for our tech school students.  If you are the parent of a tech school student, please watch for additional communications later this evening.


Many of you, if not all of you, are looking for a glimmer of hope of getting your child(ren) back in school full time.  We are planning measured steps to do just that if our case numbers and related data remain low.  However, this requires a QCSD team, family, and community effort to get there!  We have the systems and dedicated staff and faculty to do just that. It is our goal!  But it requires a commitment from our entire school community, especially every family to use thoughtfulness and good judgment when your child(ren) is/are out of school - socially distance, wear masks when out in public, and to continue to do your part in supporting our Health and Safety Plan.  Our employees will embrace that commitment by continuing to provide theirs.

Have a good evening!

Bill Harner

Superintendent

wharner@qcsd.org

Twitter: @billharner

Quick COVID test at St Luke’s

Weekly Staffing/Quarantine Data

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