Superintendent Town Hall
Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Zerbe hosted two virtual town hall meetings on January 14, 2021 to provide details on a proposed plan for optional instructional delivery models within the district. Participants had a choice to register for one of two sessions scheduled (6:30PM-8:00PM and 8:10PM- 9:40PM). Participants were also asked to submit questions in advance that would be addressed at the meeting.
Q&A from Town Hall
What are you doing for high school students and seniors?
- Driving/Parking Privileges: Juniors for the second semester will be allowed obtain a parking space for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Additional information will be communicated directly to Juniors in the coming days.
- PSAT Administration: Administration of the PSAT test will take place on premise for Juniors and Sophomores on January 26.
- Career Day and Guest Speakers: Seniors and Freshmen will participate in a series of virtual guest speaker presentations covering topics such as personal finance, career link pathways, workplace etiquette, stress management, and entrepreneurship during the PSAT administration day on January 26.
- Theater Productions: The Methacton Theater program and Warrior Performance Group will be staging several productions while leveraging new and unique capabilities of the virtual world.
- Senior, Class of 2021 Culminating Event: Plans are underway for a culminating Senior Prom/Post Prom type event – Senior Event will be in May at an outdoor venue. Additional information will be discussed with the members of the Class of 2021 in the coming weeks.
- Virtual Social Events: Sponsors of the Classes of 2022, 2023, and 2024 are planning to hold a combined virtual event in the Spring. Mr. Methacton, a time honored tradition at MHS, will take place this spring. Additional events are under consideration.
- Celebrating the Class of 2021:
- Social Media Celebrations: In addition to the release of the Homecoming video of pictures submitted by parents/guardians of the members of the Class of 2021, the Methacton Twitter account will again highlight our Senior accomplishments throughout the month of May. A new Class of 2021 media account is being created by class sponsors to highlight student submissions.
- Yard Signs: MHS is pleased to announce that it will celebrate the members of the Class of 2021 by providing, at no cost to students a celebratory, personalized yard sign in recognition of the members of the class.
- Graduation for the Class of 2021: Planning has begun in an effort to consider all options for an in person graduation ceremony. Current and possible restrictions on large group gatherings are being considered in the planning. Additional plans will be announced in the coming months.
Is there a vaccine requirement for teachers and staff to teach in person? Is there a timeline for this to be completed if there is?
- There is no requirement for an employee or contractor of the district to get the vaccine. Staff will be given the option early in the 1B1 phase of the vaccine administration cycle.
Regarding the holiday surge, can you discuss the timing for Parents/Guardians to commit to the new plan?
- Parents will be given 5 days to make a decision with supporting documents outlining the options. In terms of the holiday surge, it is clear that the recommendation from the County to hold off on a return right after the holiday was appropriate. The question on the implementation of the Blended Model is proposed for February 8, 2021 and will be far out from the impact of the surge. It does not necessarily mean that positivity or incidence rates will have significantly declined by then, but it is predicted by some medical experts to level off with a slight decline and continue to decline as we move into the warmer months.
What are the current Positivity and Incident rates?
- See the District Data Dashboard.
The data is higher now than before (July-October). Should we consider staying hybrid/all virtual until March?
- There are a number of options that can be considered and each of them have benefits and drawbacks. It will be important to know that recent recommendations from PDE support elementary blended learning in person.
Will this plan eliminate the need to close schools as frequently?
Does this plan allow for individual school closures rather than district-wide closures?
How will the district ensure a consistent schedule rather than switching from hybrid back to virtual?
- The schedule will inherently be better for some more than others. Schools that have transmission and positivity issues will be back and forth more frequent that those that do not experience the matter as frequent.
Will the April adjustment period allow both on premises (in-person) and all virtual students to switch?
- The adjustment period is only for movement from all online to in person.
If we chose in person, will we be made aware of class size prior to returning? And if it’s too large for out comfort can we change to virtual?
- Each school building will publish their average class size for the building and in the event that you have chosen to be in person and then change your mind, you can do this once with the opportunity to get back to on premises in April.
For K-6 it states that you can re evaluate your decision of online vs in person during April. Approximately when in April?
- We believe that selection will occur just prior to April 1 and the changes go in to effect following the spring holiday (barring recommendation from the County to not return following holiday)
Are students who attend in person change to virtual at any time?
- You can change at anytime, but you can only do this once.
Could a parent/guardian choose from hybrid (2 days), 5 day or all virtual model?
- No. For grades K-6 the options are (Blended 5 day per week or all online) (note: Students with IEP have other specific arrangements)
Could a parent/guardian elect to send their child 4 days and remain virtual on Fridays?
- Not at the K-6 level.
How will the plan change if the split required is greater than 70/30?
- The 70/30 split is not a necessary target in this proposal.
For K-6, 5 days per week, how many kids do you anticipate will be in each classroom?
- Class sizes will adhere to the Health and Safety Plan.
Will students in K-6 choosing the Premises 5 Days/Week option be required to bring and use the Chromebooks and headphones while in school sitting at their desks?
- Yes. Students will be interacting with virtual students and digital tools.
Will students who attend school in person still be on zoom calls from their desks all day or will the classroom run more 'normally'?
- Instructional activities will include Zoom interactions and in-person interactions.
What will the day look like for kindergarten students?
- Students will follow the typical kindergarten schedule. Instructional time is impeded to meet our health and safety protocols, such as washing hands and using hand sanitizer.
Will students who attend school in person be permitted to leave school supplies (books, folders, chromebooks) at school so they don't have to carry 30 pound backpacks back and forth every day?
- Students are required to transport their Chromebooks and other materials each day.
How can we help the in-person students better and be more engaged?
- Teachers are managing their classrooms while adhering to Health and Safety guidelines. Students are expected to be attending and completing tasks.
How much will this model increase on-premised instructional days?
- The proposed model is bringing students into school five days a week with the same teacher.
How will band and orchestra lessons and rehearsals be arranged when students are in person 5 days a week?
- Depending on family responses, the music department is planning for both in-person and online.
Since Skyview teachers are K-6 certified, is it possible that virtual Skyview students could have one teacher for all core classes rather than switching teachers as they do now?
- Teachers are rotating into the classrooms rather than students moving to different classrooms.
If we choose to remain virtual will my child's teacher change?
- This plan does not change the teacher.
How will changes to in person instruction affect students who remain virtual?
- There is no more or less change for all online students.
How will lunch and recess be handled about K-4? The cafeterias are crowded as it is without the 6-foot distancing so having an entire grade at lunch at the same time while keeping socially distanced seems impossible. The same for recess, the play areas are not large enough to adequately space children let alone an entire grade.
- The cafeteria follows social distancing guidelines as delineated in the Health and Safety Plan. Principals are developing schedules to accommodate potential increases in students on premises.
What will recess look like and specials?
- K-4 students will continue to have a 30-minute recess following the Health and Safety guidelines. Specials will continue with the weekly rotation.
If my elementary school child stays virtual will they still have the same teacher?
- This plan does not change the teacher.
How will gifted be handled at Skyview as it is in specific subjects with specific teachers who teach those classes? Will students remain with their current challenge teachers?
- Students with GIEPS will still receive instruction from their current Challenge teachers at all levels.
If a student has an IEP, will it remain in effect regardless of the option we select?
- All students with IEPs, whether they participate in person or all virtual, will continue to receive the services and supports outlined in their program. Should you have any questions about your child’s educational program or the delivery of services, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s special education teacher, case manager or the appropriate special education supervisor.
How will you address the emotional and academic regression that these students have faced throughout the past 9+ months to assure that they will be on track developmentally going forward?
- As Dr. Zerbe mentioned in his presentation, the district will be offering academic support for students in the evening beginning in March 2021. These services will be delivered similar to the Student Service Center Model that was previously in place earlier in the school year. More specific information about these services will be provided at the upcoming board meetings in January.
- In terms of interventions, the district is in the process of developing targeted intervention programs for our students who may need this additional academic or social/emotional support. These program will be offered to eligible students this summer. Individuals from the curriculum department will be providing more details at the upcoming board meetings this month. Additionally, the district will be providing Extended School Year and COVID Compensatory Services for student with IEPs who are eligible.
Will parent volunteers be permitted back into the building at this time as well?
- Our health and safety plan does not allow for parent volunteers at this time; however, this could change at some point in time.
I am wondering if there will be any changes to the pick up and drop off procedures for "car riders". We've only done it twice now, and I don't know what it normally looks like since this is our first year in the district, but I can see how the current process may not scale well at Arrowhead once all students return to the building. The traffic at Skyview/Arcola for morning drop off and afternoon pick up is currently orderly but extensive with all on premise students going back the same days how will the traffic be controlled at this and other locations?
- There were multiple questions asked related to parent pickup and dropoff procedures. Please know that once the building principals have the actual data, they will be reviewing their pickup and dropoff protcols and location points. In addition, the district will still have security officers available to assist with traffic flow.
For Hybrid, if we have been doing drop off/pick up, can we switch to busing every day?
- In terms of transportation, bus routes are in place. Students who were being dropped off or pickup may switch to riding the bus. If you have any questions about your child’s bussing information, please look in the parent portal on PowerSchool.
Will the YMCA before and after school program return to the elementary buildings?
- We are working with the YMCA to provide both before and after school program in addition to providing services for students who remain virtual. More specific information will be provided at the January 19 board meeting.
Will high school students be permitted to participate in extra-curricular activities if they are in virtual instruction or when they are comfortable?
- Yes, students can choose to still participate in extra-curricular activities if they are in virtual instruction. “When they are comfortable” may be possible with some activities, but some would create a challenge (Ex: joining a sports team once it has officially began. This would be handled similar to any other year if students decide to join sports teams in the middle of the season).
What are the quarantining procedures in this new model?
- Since all students will be keeping all of their current teachers in the blended model, if a student has to quarantine, they would just move into the virtual platform similar to the other synchronous students until their quarantine period has ended. Major advantage with this model with students potentially moving in and out of in-person instruction depending on quarantining without changing the instructor throughout that process. A quarantined student will stay engaged with their current teacher and current class.
For grades 9 to 12, if the students opts to stay home will teachers change or will teachers stay in place?
- If the student opts to stay home, they will keep the same teacher that the students in-person would have.
Will student be able to keep their same teachers with this current model?
- Yes, all students will have the opportunity to stay with their current teacher unless the teacher requests a leave or is quarantined.
What happens if the teachers refuse to report to work?
- Teachers will report to on-premises each day unless they are on an approved leave or are quarantined. We do not expect to have any concerns with staff refusing to report to work. If they are unable to report, they work with our HR office to determine leave possibilities that they may be entitled to.
Let's discuss the vaccination of staff members. Will this eliminate our staffing concerns?
- The district is working closely with county officials to provide vaccines to our staff as soon as possible. We have a number of staff members that fall into the 1a category with all others falling into the 1b category. This will certainly help our staffing issues.
Follow Up Questions Post-Town Hall
What is the plan for Arcola baseball team in spring. Will this be 5x week?
- This is yet be determined.
Regarding the upcoming in-person hybrid delivery after Feb 8th, could we request for our kids which days will be virtual vs. in-person to accommodate our work schedules?
- In order to balance the schedule, the two days are assigned.
Will subjects, like language, be offered in the extra support being planned for the HS level?
- Support for all academic subjects will be available through the Student Supports Program.
In the presentation, Dr. Zerbe mentioned rapid antigen testing. Will it be available to students and staff? Will it be administered daily? Is it taken from a saliva sample? Which test is it (brand and product)? Is there a cost for it? When might testing begin?
- The antigen testing is primarily being made available to staff. There are a select number of students that will be offered the assurance testing with parent consent. Those that participate will be administered weekly. It will be a self-administered nasal swap test. The testing is funded through CHOP. Testing is slated to begin in early February.
Has any tracing been done in the school. Dr. Zerbe’s email indicated one adult with symptoms and 2 with confirmed cases. Were these transmitted from one to another? If so, that raises a significant concern since it means that, despite all the safety protocols in place, the virus was able to counter them. Will subjects, like language, be offered in the extra support being planned for the HS level?
- Contact tracing is part of the Health and Safety plan and is done each time that a positive case is identified. That procedure is conducted by school nurses and information shared with County Department of Health who then conduct the external contact tracing (the close contacts not in school).
Is there some type of compromise solution that can be determined for those student-athletes who have practice after school and need to quickly change clothes in the locker rooms? Have the students go in/out in small groups to stay distanced and change clothes?
The cohort or small group practice is what we have instructed coaches to do for changing in these circumstances.
I heard mention of a possible lottery from another parent who attended the second meeting. If this is the case, can you please elaborate and explain?
In the instance that there is a section (for example) of 25 students and with the Janaury selection process only 10 plan to return in person 5 days per week and the other 15 remain online, in April there will be an opportunity for the 15 all online students to take the remaining 10 (socially distanced) seats in the classroom. If all 15 want to come back in person with only 10 seats, then a lottery will be used to allow the 10 seats to be used with 5 students remaining online. We do not believe that we will have to use this often or at all, but it is theoretical based on current class seats and section sizes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education recommends full remote learning when incidence is >100/100k or positivity is >10%; CHOP recommends full remote learning when positivity >9%. Our current incidence is 318/100k and positivity is 11.6%, both beyond the PDOE/CHOP maximums. My question: Have any experts (PDOE, CHOP, or any other) given Methacton approval to break from those thresholds?
In short, the PA Department of Health in conjunction with the PA Department of Education have jointly recommended that the blended learning model be provided to elementary students where in the county with which the district is located has rates of incidence and positivity in the substantial range.