QCSD’s plan is working; Happy Veterans Day!

QCSD’s plan is working; Happy Veterans Day!
Posted on 11/11/2020

Good afternoon!   Hope all is well with you and your family.  For all of you who are veterans, Happy Veterans Day!  Thank you for your service.


I would like to update you on several things as we begin to open our secondary schools a little wider next week to five-day instruction.  But first, I would like to remind you that on our QCSD  homepage we have a link for our weekly COVID-19 statistics called “COVID By The Numbers.” The support for our Health & Safety Plan and the fidelity of its implementation by students, faculty, staff, and you all at home has kept community spread of the virus out of our schools so far. With two months of school behind us, we have our process and procedures down in every school.  When we receive a notification of a close contact incident or positive case, our standard operating procedures take over.  


We are tracking the resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the state and in our region.  We are also watching the approach other districts are taking regarding the spike in their schools and  staffing issues. Earlier this week, the PA Department of Health moved Bucks County from “moderate” to “substantial.” In Upper Bucks County, our numbers are relatively low.  The spike in COVID-19 cases locally is in Lower Bucks County where most of the school districts are just moving from virtual to hybrid instruction.   


As I shared with you in my last last blog, A Glimpse Behind the Curtain, the conundrum for us is sustaining the balance of safety precautions and getting as many students as possible back in class with their teachers.  Our teachers have been remarkable in their flexibility and work ethic.  Keeping teacher and parent confidence in our safety precautions has everything to do with keeping our schools open with highly qualified instruction happening every day.  As we further reopen our schools at the secondary level, we are relying on our Health & Safety Plan protocols to maintain that confidence.


Placing this in context, the amount of professional staff absences have progressively increased each week.  That, combined with lack of an adequate substitute teacher pool to cover the increase in absences, has us wondering what the next few months will look like. The diagram below captures a weekly snapshot of the number of substitute teachers needed versus unfilled positions. As you can see, the gap is getting wider. 


* Absences and Substitute Data  


In a pre-COVID-19-vaccine world, what we do know suggests that one of the safest places for students is in one of our schools.  With all of the other safety precautions we have put into place - a fully engaged and safety conscientious staff and faculty, everyone supporting the wearing of a mask and keenly aware of social distancing, our schools are disciplined enough for our next step, which is to go to live instruction at the secondary level five days a week.  We expect this to put additional pressure on our limited substitute pool.  If there comes a point where the number of unfilled teaching positions can not be covered within internal school or district personnel assets and there are not enough adults to safely supervise students, parents will be notified the evening before of a “yellow alert” that signals the possibility of an individual school closure the next day.  The final call whether closure of a building is needed will come the following morning, similar to an inclement weather call.  On a daily basis, principals are tracking their forecasted absences and we hope this system will provide you with some notice when we are unlikely to be able to safely open a building. 

A major change as a result of the secondary schools’ shift to 5 day live instruction that you need to be knowledgeable about is that we are returning to a three-tiered transportation system - a different start time for each building level.  Earlier this week, Levy School Bus Company, Inc. published new individual student letters that have already been mailed home with new pickup points and times for all secondary (6-12) students.  Elementary school start time and schedules will remain the same. The 6th Grade Center, Strayer Middle School and Quakertown Community High School will have new start times. The 6GC and Strayer will retain the block schedule, while the high school is working on a schedule that will maintain the advantages of the block schedule while supporting the more than 400 students who attend Upper Bucks County Technical School.  At the elementary level, please be advised that the first two weeks of the new schedule will be very much like the first two weeks of school, so there may be some delays and disruptions in elementary bus service. Levy’s will continue to monitor and make adjustments after the Thanksgiving break in order to resolve any issues that persist after the first few weeks of the new schedule.

While this winter is predicted to be mild like last year, we most likely will have at least one snow or inclement weather event.  With our instructional model and shortened school day, we have only two options for a snow day.  Either we will have school that starts on time or we will have everyone learning virtually.  This flexibility will allow us not to have to add school days on to the end of the year, nor use the remaining Blue Days in the 2020-21 Calendar.

Finally, as you are making plans for Thanksgiving and the rest of the Holiday Season, I would like to remind you about the provisions of the QCSD Health & Safety Plan that is designed to keep your child(ren), along with members of our staff and faculty, safe.  Specifically, I would like to remind you about out of state travel.  As of today, there are 31 states that have a 14-day quarantine recommendation by the PA Department of Health for individuals returning to PA.  Our Health & Safety Plan follows the PA DOH recommendation.  

Yesterday, I provided notice to all of our employees about our expectation for them to inform us about any out of state travel, and the requirement to quarantine - not come to school - if they travel to one of these 31 states.  In turn, we respectfully request you let your principal and teachers know if your family has plans to travel to one of these states.  We will then be better prepared to support your child(ren) upon their return to PA through our virtual instructional model for the 14-day quarantine period.  I greatly appreciate your support in maintaining our Health & Safety protocols.  With everyone working together we will be able to keep our schools as safe places and open throughout the remainder of the pandemic.

Thanks for reading.

Bill Harner

Superintendent

@BillHarner

wharner@qcsd.org



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