September 21, 2020
Dear Methacton Parent/Guardian,
I hope that this message finds you and your family doing exceptionally well. We are off to an outstanding start of our virtual instruction program and while I am extremely proud of the effort by our staff, I want to also thank our students and parents for their support. Thank you!!!
In addition to all the outstanding work underway, I want to share where we are going.
We are progressing well towards delivering a plan for providing on premises instruction. Following the Education Committee meeting of the Board of School Directors on Thursday, September 10, 2020, where I presented our process forward, we have addressed the following to date:
- Provided a survey to our professional staff to determine the number and type of certifications we will have available to us as we move to a return to on premises instruction.
- We are drafting a survey for parents to indicate their choice between available online and on premises options. The survey is targeted to be issued by end of this week.
- Gathered 7 and 14 day positivity rate data from the county department of health that will help guide our decision for instructional modality (all online, hybrid, or full return).
- Met with focus group of teachers at each level to discuss challenges and solutions associated with various delivery modalities and a return to on premises.
- Began updating the Board approved Health and Safety Plan with additional specificity to ensure clear and concise instruction on all matters.
- Secured 6 months of PPE supplies to support the return to on premises. While we are waiting for 16 electrostatic sprayer back packs to arrive in mid-October, we have and are currently using 26 electrostatic sprayers that will provide us coverage for a return to on premises.
- Working with our substitute teacher service provider to secure daily substitutes and additional school nursing support to best anticipate needs with a return to on premises.
- Transportation Services is reviewing routes, safety measures, and cleaning protocols.
- Working on a potential 2 day transition time for teachers (Act 80 days or otherwise all asynchronous learning days or a combination) to provide time to prepare for an on premises return and to provide training on the health and safety plan protocols.
While there are a number of other matters that are being addressed, the most important matter is that we will have a plan for a return to on premises instruction targeted to begin on or about the end of the first marking period (November 11).
The plan will not be without its challenges. For instance, the very moment we move from our current singular model of instructional delivery (all students online) to providing multiple options, there will be challenges. Having the full participation from our staff and our families on the surveys that we issue will help us determine many aspects of the challenges associated with providing multiple options such as if a child will keep their current teacher, if the teacher will need to use a combination of live streaming and asynchronous instruction, which teachers will be teaching the online only classes, or how many students and adults we can place in classrooms, etc.
As we work towards the final plan for on premises instruction and provide our families with more specifics, it needs to be known that at this juncture we will make adjustments allowing for a fluid transition going forward in the instance that we need to shift back and forth between delivery models (all online, hybrid, and full return).
Given all the health and safety protocols and PPE in place, the work associated with the distancing of desks in classrooms and all the precautions, it is not reasonable to expect that we will be able to keep students 100% of the time at a distance of 6 feet. In fact, it is likely that all students at each level will be in closer proximity to their classmates and adults at some point within the given school day. I share this as a means to be honest about our expectations and clearly inform parents.
Additionally, the county department of health’s social tracing process suggest that any individual who is within less than 6 feet of a confirmed positive case for a consecutive 15 minutes or longer is generally subject to quarantine provisions. As an example, if you have a confirmed positive case in a first grade class, the health department will seek specific information on the distance and length of continuous time in order to determine the potential impact on individuals or the entire classroom.
Furthermore, it will require an extraordinary amount of effort for our teaching staff to provide instruction to students on site while streaming a lesson to students who elect to be all online and to students who may be online as a part of their hybrid schedule. In our discussions with teachers, we believe that live streaming might work in some situations and at some levels. However, live streaming is not the same as Zoom classes we are providing right now in that the interaction among students online and on premises to each other and with the teacher is more limited. I share this in advance so that we can all recognize that providing the on premises option will have a direct impact on the current online model.
Lastly, I want to share that the return to on premises instruction may look different at each level. What might work well for students and staff in the high school could likely be different than what works at an elementary level. Available options at each level will be partially dependent upon how many students at that level choose to remain all online and how many choose to return to on premises.
Please know that I will be addressing these matters in greater detail with the Board of School Directors at our work session meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 22, 2020.
Thank you for your continued support and patience as we proceed forward with our return to on premises instruction.
Dr. David Zerbe
Superintendent of Schools