Midstate school districts finalize plans for fall reopening

“We’re going to ease through this to make sure we don’t contribute to community spread.”

  • Julia Agos

(Newville) — As school districts evaluate strategies for reopening, some in the midstate plan to begin the academic year with a hybrid model.

Big Spring School District, in Cumberland County, will divide students into two groups. The A group will receive in-person instruction on Mondays and Wednesdays, while the B group watches lectures from home.

They will switch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Fridays will be online for all students.

The Carlisle Area School District and the Lower Dauphin School District are among other districts adopting a similar model.

Big Spring Superintendent Richard Fry said the goal is to have no more than a dozen students physically in a classroom at a time.

“We’re going to ease through this to make sure we don’t contribute to community spread. And then as we can, ease into what we call a tier three, where we bring all students back. We know all students need to have the opportunity for face to face (instruction). We’re going to patiently work through that,” Fry said.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, Friday, July 10, 2020, in Zelienople, Pa.

Others, like West Shore School District in Cumberland County, will be online only at least for the first few weeks.

Central Dauphin School District, Halifax Area School District, Millersburg Area School District and Upper Dauphin Area School District will return to in-person instruction five days a week.

Fry said administrators at Big Spring hope to reevaluate the approach in mid-October and plan to try to get elementary students back to full-time, in-person instruction.

Big Spring School District is also planning a delayed start date. Superintendent Richard Fry said pushing the first day of school back to Sept. 8 will give staff more time to train and prepare for what is expected to be a very different school year.

“A lot of that training with staff is going to be social and emotional learning, not just for our students, but for our staff. We have not been together as a staff since March 12. Obviously, we have folks who are anxious. So, we have to take care of our well-being before we even think about learning,” he said.

Fry said schools will set up isolation zones for students who begin to show COVID-19 symptoms while in the classroom.

The district is also training teachers to be contact tracers to help mitigate the spread.

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