Members of the Pottsville Area School District voted Thursday night to approve a plan that gets students back in school 4 days a week.
School officials call this a “full in-person instruction” model.
On Thursday night, board members unanimously approved the plan drafted by Acting Superintendent Jared Gerace and the district’s Pandemic Planning Team.
Pottsville Area School District Approves 4-Day “Full In-Person Instruction” Week
Under this plan, all Pottsville Area students will be working virtually on Wednedays. They’ll physically go to school on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Acting Superintendent Jared Gerace said taking Wednesdays off gives school staff a chance to maintain sanitary conditions at the school’s 3 buildings. However, under this plan with all students back in school 4 days a week, social distancing will likely not be possible, especially on school buses and in cafeterias.
“It’s not humanly possible,” Gerace told board members.
Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 term, Pottsville Area students have followed a “blended” reopening with students attending class in-person at school 2 or 3 days a week.
Pottsville Area School District 4-Day Instruction Plan Phases
The move to a 4-day in-person instruction week will not be an all-at-once reopening, as it were. Instead, students will move to this plan based on grade level. And the first students going back to a more full reopening won’t start until the week starting Oct. 12.
During the weeks of Oct. 12-16 and Oct. 19-23, students at John S. Clarke Elementary will start on the 4-day in-person plan. Students at DHH Lengel Middle School and Pottsville Area High School will continue on the blended reopening model during that time.
Pottsville Area High School students won’t return to the 4-day reopening plan until the week of Oct. 26-30. Schools will still be physically closed on Wednesdays – but in session virtually – until further notice once this plan is implemented.
Students at Pottsville Area now have just 2 choices for their instruction. They can either follow the plan spelled out above or can choose a full remote plan, not attending in person any days of the week.
Transmission Rates Could Change Plan
Although Pottsville Area continues to ease toward a truly full in-person instruction model, there’s still a chance it could return to the blended model or fully remote. That’ll depend on the transmission rate of COVID-19.
Several factors could put the plan approved tonight in reverse:
- Exceeding a 5% testing positivity rate in Schuylkill County
- Exceeding a few cases of COVID-19 per school building
- Exceeding a “low moderate” rate of transmission in Schuylkill County (Less than 30 cases/100,000 people locally)
- Lack of PPE
A few weeks ago, it appeared Pottsville Area wouldn’t deviate from its current “blended” reopening plan until Schuylkill County was designated as a “low” transmission rate county by the Pennsylvania Health Dept.
However, in lieu of that designation, Pottsville Area considers the Schuylkill County “moderate” transmission rate as a “low moderate” and is changing course slightly.
But if any those thresholds are exceeded, school officials could decide to return to a less open schedule, if you will. And once those thresholds were exceeded, they’d need to return to below those levels for a 2-week period before the so-called full reopening were implemented again.
Public Supports Full Reopening
Pottsville Area officials say they surveyed parents on their feelings about a full reopening of the schools. The district received 886 responses and 82.8% responding said they’d support a full reopening if it were offered.
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