Message from Dr. Hacker
October 15, 2020
Dear Staff, Parents, and Guardians,
This message is to share some of the planning that is taking place in our buildings prior to the re-entry of students and staff in our hybrid model. Our principals and administrators are working each day to ensure safe and healthy practices and conditions for the return to school. My thanks to those of you who completed the parent or staff surveys, which are helping us to get an idea of who will be back. I would also recommend that you contact your child's teacher(s) and the principal if your choice will be for virtual instruction in the home all five days, so that they all can plan accordingly.
Please take a look at each of the areas covered below, and if you have more specific questions or concerns between now and November 9th, the date of our return, please be sure to contact your building principal. Principals will be communicating additional detailed information regarding the return to school within the next weeks as well.
1. PPE - All classrooms will have ample supplies of disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer (also in hallway dispensers), extra masks, gloves, and protective shields if needed. Please note: Masks will be required to be worn by all students and staff on buses, and in buildings, at all times other than when eating.
2. Building videos - We are developing videos of spaces in each school to share with our families and staff, so that you can view how social distancing in those spaces will be achieved. Videos will highlight distancing between classroom desks, markings in the hallways, and seating for lunch in the cafeteria or other spaces, and should be helpful for reassuring you of what conditions will be within in each school.
3. Protocols for suspected cases of COVID - please refer to our website main page at sdst.org, under "COVID-19 Resources at https://www.sdst.org/covid-19-resources/index to see the Montgomery County Office of Public Health Exclusion Guide, and an explanation of the difference between quarantine and isolation. When a report is made of suspected or confirmed exposure or a positive case, we have identified lead individuals in our district who will report this information and work with the Montco OPH to immediately implement contact tracing, notify anyone who might have come into concerning contact in the building with the individual, communicate whether quarantine is warranted, and communicate with staff and/or families as needed.
4. Technology - we recommend that families consider the purchase of ear buds to facilitate learning. We can assist for families who need financial support with these or other tech needs. We have ordered speakers to amplify sound and have ordered additional devices on hand in classrooms to help with instructional delivery.
5. Bus transportation - we will do our best to provide social distancing on our buses, however, we are currently experiencing a shortage in the number of drivers available, so we may need to consolidate runs, which would mean more students on each bus. We will be starting up our non-public bus transportation next week, but once we are also doing public school runs, buses can become more populated. We recommend that siblings sit together. (Please contact our Transportation Dept. if you know of someone who would be interested in training to become a school bus driver for us!)
6. During the week of November 2nd through November 6th, schools will be closed on November 3rd for Election Day. On November 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday - we will have live instruction each morning, but in the afternoons, our teachers will be working on preparing their classrooms for the following week's return to in-person instruction. Therefore all afternoon sessions on those days will be asynchronous.
7. Please help us to keep students and staff safe by keeping children home when ill. This includes those with severe colds, flu-like symptoms including fever, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea. We would also request that you notify the school nurse immediately if any child has been exposed to any individual who has tested positive for coronavirus or who also has been potentially exposed to someone with the virus.
We look forward to welcoming back our students and staff to school on November 9th, and hope this provides you with some information about this return. Thank you for your cooperation, and for working with us to ensure a smooth and safe transition!
Dr. Nancy Hacker
Dear Staff, Parents, and Guardians,
As we head into October, I wanted to provide you with an update regarding our plans for the re-opening of in-person instruction in our schools. I have been closely monitoring continued updates, including from a new Montco Office of Public Health source that provides data for our own Springfield Township, on the coronavirus incidence and positivity rates in our area. I am very happy to report that our positivity rate over the past two weeks is at the lowest levels ever for our area since March! While we are testing more, and many of those tests are negative, the good news remains that our incidence rate is approximately 20 cases per day for every 100,000, which is far below the more typical 35 or so cases per day we were seeing over the summer. The positivity rate is hovering around 1.32% currently, also way below rates that were around 3.5% several weeks ago. This gives us all a strong rationale for trying to get students back into school so that they can enjoy the benefits of in-person learning and socialization.
In order to safely re-open schools, I am once again requesting that you complete the brief survey that will assist us with our planning, at the link below, by Monday, October 12th.
Our current planning calls for opening back up our schools in a hybrid model on Monday, November 9th, at the start of the 2nd marking period. We plan to open ALL schools in a hybrid model, with half our students in on Monday and Tuesday, and the other half in on Thursday and Friday. All learning will be asynchronous on Wednesdays. We hope to do this in such a way, with coordination across buildings, so that siblings can come to school on the same days. This means that our teachers will be teaching with half the class sitting in front of them in school, while the other half of the class is live streaming in from home. The schedule will be different, including more days in person and sooner than November 9th, for our special education students. The reason for this hybrid schedule is that we simply cannot safely socially distance students a minimum of 6 feet apart from themselves and from their teacher unless classes are split in half. This option, just like virtual instruction, has limitations. It is not an ideal environment for our students, and it is not an ideal teaching situation for teachers who are trying to manage students in front of them as well as those at home. However, we do not have enough space in the entire district to spread students out sufficiently unless we only bring in half the number of students each day. Further, the logistics of planning for re-entry are complicated. Every aspect and minute of the day must be carefully designed so that students do not walk or gather together as they typically do in groups, whether on the bus, as they walk into or out of school, in the hallways, or sitting in the cafeteria. Principals have devised plans that replicate the schedules that students are on now so as not to disrupt those existing schedules.
I also wish to make everyone aware that the success of re-opening is dependent on the continued partnership between home and school. So far, our athletes, as an example, have done a remarkable job keeping safe and adhering to everything that we have asked of them, and we have not had any instance of transmission or virus as a result. We hope that all of our families will continue to do their part to ensure that we all adhere to social distancing and wearing masks outside of school, as well as in our schools. We are all in this together, and while we are weary of the restrictions placed on us, we are all well aware of the stories that we have heard about schools that have opened, and have had to shut down again because of positive cases. We do not want that to happen, and we must safeguard the health of every single staff member and student entrusted to us.
If you have specific questions regarding any aspect of our re-opening plans, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR BUILDING PRINCIPAL. While plans are not yet finalized, the principals will be able to address any concerns or questions you may have.
Thank you for your continued support, and parents and guardians, please complete the survey at your earliest convenience.
Dr. Nancy M. Hacker