PENNSBURY >> The administration on August 20 will recommend that the school board extend virtual learning for all students until January 29 and not to offer a hybrid option until Feburary.

In a joint statement issued on August 12, School Board President TR Kannan and Superintendent Dr. William Gretzula explained the reasoning for the proposed changes to the district's reopening plan.

“Due to personal and household health concerns of our employees, it has become obvious that numerous positions would need to be filled to offer any kind of in-person learning,” said the school leaders. “We understand and appreciate the challenges this creates for working families, concerns around mental health, lack of social interaction, and ability for students to learn online. We will continue to look at innovative options to address these issues

“Certainly, we are all united in the goal to resume an education plan that brings everyone together safely inside our school buildings," the statement continues. "That is where we are meant to be, and that is where we will return - eventually. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor conditions pertaining to safety, staffing, and educational effectiveness as we move into the new school year.”

At its July meeting, the school board voted to open the school year on September 8th with virtual learning for all grades while providing students with IEPs and 504 plan accommodations the opportunity to physically attend in-person.

In addition, an October 5th date was set for students to either remain in full-virtual instruction or return to class in a hybrid model in which students would attend school in person two days a week and be in remote learning the other three days.

“Amidst mounting concerns around issues of health and safety, and thorough review of practical constraints around staffing, continuing uncertainty, and an analysis of multiple staff and community survey results, the following changes are being recommended for consideration by the Board at the August 20th School Board meeting,” said the statement.

- Do not open buildings on September 8 for specialized learners, and instead meet their needs using specially designed instruction in their home environment, both virtually and in-person (when determined necessary by an individual child’s team of professionals). "This is supported by more than 150 teachers and nearly 140 paraprofessionals who indicated in staff surveys that they would be comfortable with going to students’ homes in those rare instances," said the school leaders.

- Postpone the hybrid option until the end of the 2nd Marking Period, which currently ends on Friday, January 29, 2021, for all students and focus resources and efforts only on providing a robust virtual learning environment for all students.

- Meet all students' needs through a robust virtual learning model that is synchronous, structured and delivered by Pennsbury teachers using Pennsbury curricula. The district would "ensure this model is not the same learning experience that had to be delivered in an emergency fashion in the spring and is similar to an in-person model with accountability for both students and staff. Focusing on a single model for all students removes the risk and complications involved with matching 10,000 students with approximately 850 professional and 650 support personnel staff members across two learning platforms," said the school leaders.

“The Pennsbury Board of School Directors and the administration are united in our deep commitment to meet the serious challenges presented by the international COVID-19 pandemic,” said the statement. “We will prioritize health and safety while ensuring student success. We plan to achieve this by collaborative problem-solving and making changes and adjustments as warranted by the circumstances at hand.”

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