Plans to reopen schools, need you help

Plans to reopen schools, need your help
Posted on 07/16/2020

Good evening!  Hope that this finds you and your family well!  

The purpose of my blog this evening is to provide you with an update on Quakertown Community School District’s planning for reopening schools.  There is little doubt this is one of your most pressing questions - how will Quakertown reopen its schools. As I am sure you know from the news and social media, our planning environment is incredibly fluid with significant state directives and changes happening weekly. Just yesterday, Governor Wolf announced that COVID-19 cases are surging once again in the majority of the counties in Pennsylvania.  In turn, the Governor has re-tightened some of the restrictions he was able to relax last month. 

Our planning process for reopening schools is both complex and complicated.  What has been marvelous is the support and input from the community, staff and faculty, administrators and the School Board.  After talking with the Board, on May 18th, we established a task force to reopen schools in the fall.  The reopening schools task force has four major work groups - Health & Safety, Virtual Instruction, Equity, and Social-Emotional Learning & Mental Health.  The task force is made up of more than 90 administrators, teachers, nurses, support staff members, and parents. Presidents from both professional and support staff associations - QCEA and QESPA, are members and actively participate in work group meetings, and we value their ongoing collaboration throughout the pandemic.  All of the relationship building and support has been marvelous.  Important to parents and us in our work is the redesign of our Virtual Instruction model for 2020-21.  Check out the one pager on how we will deliver virtual instruction in the fall for students who choose that option.  

The reopening task force designed two surveys to learn from parents, and professional and support staff members about what they were thinking about and their concerns were regarding the reopening schools in the fall.  We knew we had to strike the right balance of getting students back in school and being mindful of the health and safety of all.  Our QCSD-produced surveys were widely used by other districts in the region, which was helpful to us in analyzing our own results and comments. The surveys informed our work groups about what you expected and required of us.  

At the May 28th School Board meeting, we shared and discussed the parent survey results with the Board. Subsequently, at the June 11th Board meeting, task force co-leaders Nancianne Edwards and Dr. Lisa Hoffman, the district’s Assistant Superintendents, and work group leaders provided a brief update on their work, along with teacher survey and comments results.  The Board discussed the task force’s progress and shared their individual views on reopening.  

At the June 25th School Board meeting, the task force presented its six weeks of work to the Board and community.  This included the presentation of the PA mandated Health & Safety Plan that is required by the Pennsylvania Education Department to be approved by the School Board, prior to reopening schools.  After a robust discussion that evening about reopening our schools, the Board decided to conduct another parent survey with clarifying questions before it made a final decision on approving the Health & Safety Plan.  On July 9th, at a special called meeting, the Board approved the QCSD Health & Safety Plan, that included the PA Health Secretary’s order for wearing masks.  The Board also approved changing the start date of the new school year to September 14th.  This is our new calendar for Academic Year ‘20-‘21.

Moving forward, it is now your turn to tell us what instructional environment you want for your child(ren) this fall. It is your choice! If you have a child in Pre-K through 6th Grade, you have one of two choices - Full 100% Live Classroom  or Full Virtual instruction.  For 7th through 12th graders, you have one of three choices: Full 100% Live, A/B Live (every other day in school), Full 100% virtual instruction. Please be mindful that if we have too many parents select the Full 100% Live Classroom instruction at either Strayer MS or the High School and we can not maintain mandated social distancing, you will then have a choice between A/B Live and Virtual models. If your child is scheduled to attend Upper Bucks County Technical School, we will be supporting your student’s attendance there once the UBCTS Joint Operating Committee approves its Health & Safety Plan.  Please also note that our ability to offer 100% Live Instruction is based on our Health and Safety Plan.  Additional guidelines, orders, or mandates might affect our ability to offer that choice.

Next week, you will be receiving an email via PowerSchool (previously known as InfoSnap) for School Registration for this upcoming academic year as well as your decision about transportation.  There will be several registration questions that depend upon the grade level your child(ren) is/are in.  Please study the questions prior to jumping in and immediately completing the online Registration.  Most likely you will have several questions.  We are here to answer them.  We have created a Parent FAQ for Reopening Schools.  If you have a question that isn’t included in the FAQ, please forward it to Gary Weckselblatt at gweckselblatt@qcsd.org and we will add it to the FAQ with the answer. The deadline for PowerSchool Registration will be July 30, so that we can jump right into creating class lists and schedules, and can make decisions about transportation and full time live instruction.

To also assist you with making your decision, next Tuesday evening, July 21st from 6 to 8 pm, I will be conducting a Town Hall meeting via Zoom for parents of Pre-K through 6th Grade.  On Wednesday evening, July 22nd, from 6 to 8 pm, I will be conducting another Town Hall Meeting for parents of 7th through 12th Grade.  Task force and work group leaders, along with many of your principals will be available to answer any and all questions.  Zoom links for each session will be posted on Tuesday morning for elementary and on Wednesday morning for secondary.

If there are any PA mandated changes to the QCSD Health & Safety Plan or refined guidance from the School Board that impacts any change we will communicate it immediately to you.  The next two School Board meetings in August will be used to update the Board, and to discuss and receive approval of any changes.  

There is a tremendous amount of information referenced in this blog, so for ease of access, here is one list of the links for all the documents and references:

Revised Calendar for 2020-21

Parent Reopening of Schools FAQ

QCSD Virtual Program for 2020-21

SEL and Mental and Health and Wellness for 2020-21

Equity Task Force Summary

QCSD Summary of the Health and Safety Plan

QCSD Health and Safety Plan

Board Survey 

Faculty and Staff Survey and Comments

Parent Survey and Comments

Thank you for reading.  We miss your children and are working hard to plan and deliver the best possible educational experience for them next year in whatever environment we find ourselves.  Please stay well. 

Respectfully,

Bill Harner

Superintendent

wharner@qcsd.org

Twitter: @billharner

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