With so much uncertain, here's what we are working on

With so much uncertain, here's what we are working on
Posted on 03/20/2020

Good evening!

I hope this finds you and your family well! There is so much to report, and you know that I am not known for brevity in my blogs. It's been a long week for all of us, so I will get right to it!

We do not expect that Quakertown schools will return to our school buildings after next week. Science and current events do not support returning to school in the short term. Please plan that way, and I will share more with you once I get additional guidance from state and county officials.

Right now our administrative team is working on three possible calendar/school year scenarios:

  1. We return to school some time after March 29th in a cyber format. This requires a waiver from both the federal and state governments regarding anti-discrimination for FAPE - Free and Appropriate Public Education for student with IEPs, Students with 504 plans, students who are English language learners and students who don’t have access to the internet or adults available to assist with learning. If waivers are not provided, we would be openly discriminating against any student who does not have equal access to their education. Under this scenario the Class of 2020 seniors graduate on time, June 16th.
  2. We physically return to school in the latter part of April or early May, with K-11 students attending school through June 30th. Under this scenario the Class of 2020 seniors graduate on time, June 16th.
  3. We physically return to school and begin a new ‘20-’21 school year in August. Under this scenario the Class of 2020 seniors graduate on time, June 16th and K-11 students move to the next grade level with opportunities to make up missed content from the prior year.

In other words, the Class of 2020 seniors will graduate on time. At this point, the proms and graduation ceremony do appear to be at risk.

  • The HS Administration team will work with the student leadership of the Class of 2020 to develop a concept for celebration and closure for after the graduation date if need be.
  • The HS Administration team has reached out to 107 parents of seniors who have yet to complete QCSD graduation requirements, eg. Study Island and College & Career Ready work. They are also coordinating with seniors and their parents for those students who are academically at-risk for not graduating on time. Our goal is to get everyone to graduate.
  • By close of business Monday, every Quakertown school building will have been deep cleaned and ready to open at a moment’s notice. Only the High School is open on a limited basis for food distribution and technology exchange. No other access is permitted.
  • The only testing/assessments we are concerned about this spring are the ACT/SAT and Advanced Placement exams. The College Board has indicated they are cancelling SAT testing through May. They are planning for AP exams to be taken virtually this Spring. You can read more from the College Board here. There are plenty of online opportunities for AP students to be prepared for the exam. We have volunteered to host the SAT during the next available administration, as students are back in session. So there is lots of time to practice and dramatically increase your student’s scores using Khan Academy and other resources.
  • Based on reports from many of you and what I have read on social media, Quakertown teachers have been marvelous in volunteering their time to find ways to communicate with their students and families.
  • The construction ceased at Neidig Elementary School today, per Governor Wolf’s state order. The impact will depend on the length of the shutdown.
  • The Pupil Services administrators will continue to meet virtually with parents of students who have IEPs and GIEPs that are expiring so we remain in compliance with state mandates. Just this week over 30 meetings were conducted with parents and administrators.. Between now and the end of May another 260 IEP/GIEP meetings must be conducted to remain in compliance. School psychologists will also continue working to support mandated deadlines for evaluations where we have signed parental consent to evaluate during the shut-down.
  • We will be adjusting our report card timelines once we know which calendar scenario we will be following. Please understand that during this time, the parent portal in PowerSchool will not be updated.
  • Legislation will be taken up early next week in the PA Legislature regarding COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Here is what is before them. You can help us immediately by reaching out to PA House member Rep. Craig Staats and PA Senator Bob Mensch at this link.

I have spent the entire week in conference calls, Zoom meetings, and trying to keep up with my emails, along with ever changing news, and then processing and disseminating all the information coming from every direction. Yesterday, I was a part of distance/electronic conversations with community and political leaders from the local through federal levels. Everyone was thoughtful in their comments and responsive to questions and concerns. Senator Toomey briefed on the economic stimulus package and protections being provided for small business owners, and provided a question and answer period.

Next, I participated in our community every other day check-in meeting with Quakertown municipality managers, the Executive Director of the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce and the CEO of St. Luke’s - Upper Bucks Campus in Quakertown. Through Quakertown Borough we established a go-to webpage to capture the essence of our work - ensuring that the Quakertown community remains safe and healthy, the most needy have a place to turn to for support, and our local businesses survive the pandemic. Please check it out if you need assistance or to see all the local food establishments that are setting up a ‘grab and go’ system. We need to help get our small businesses in the Quakertown area through the pandemic.

Yesterday afternoon, during our daily Bucks County Superintendent Meeting, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick joined us. He serves on the US House of Representatives’ Bi-Partisan Task Force for the Coronavirus COVID-19. He said the Task Force has focused on safety and health issues, and he was definitely well informed on these issues. The superintendents emphasized the importance of getting students engaged through distance learning, and the difficulty in doing that within the federal laws regarding FAPE. Later in the day, I had an email exchange with the President of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, Diane Ellis-Marseglia. Her support of the Bucks County superintendents last week in closing schools and her leadership throughout has been invaluable.

I have been so encouraged by the response of our entire community during this unprecedented event. Our district cabinet team members are meeting virtually daily to ensure the behind the scenes work still gets done. Building principals, OTL staff, Technology staff and Pupil Services staff are connecting with families, providing resources for students, and making preparations to meet the needs of all students when we return to school. Our food services team has been working to provide our students who qualify for free and reduced meals, breakfast and lunch since Monday. More than 200 meals have been served! Our facilities staff has been diligently working to ensure that our buildings are clean, safe and secure. Our technology staff is making sure technology is working for you. If you are experiencing difficulties with technology, please submit a technology request form and you will be contacted by our technology team. So many of our teachers have been voluntarily sharing communications, updates, fun activities, and videos with their students and families - and we are hearing wonderful things about our students still feeling connected! So many in the community have asked how they can help. I want you to know that we are extremely grateful for this offer of support!

We are hopeful that more information will be forthcoming regarding additional changes to other state mandates in the near future. While we do not know what the future holds in terms of schools reopening or the end of year calendar, we do know that it is our plan to make sure that seniors who have met credit requirements will graduate on time. We will be adjusting report card timelines once we have a better idea of what our final calendar will look like. Additionally, the Office for Teaching and Learning will be revising curriculum to prioritize grade level standards for grades K-11 to ensure students are ready for next year. We have a great team to make it happen!

Finally, I want to encourage all members of our community to follow the state health department and Governor’s guidance, and Stay Home. In my walks around town this week, I have found multiple groups of students gathering at pavilions or playground or other venues. It is hard to stay home! Our quickest and best avenue to getting back to some kind of normalcy is to limit the community spread of the virus. Please Stay Calm, Stay Home, and Stay Safe. There are some links and phone numbers on our website for support during this stressful time, and we will continue to add resources as we become aware of them.

Grateful for your support!

Bill Harner
Superintendent
@BillHarner
wharner@qcsd.org

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