When: Donegal School Board meeting, July 23.
What happened: With 450 people watching a video conference call that lasted 3 1/2 hours, Donegal administration presented the phased school reopening health and safety plan to the school board for approval which was granted. The board received over 50 comments from parents during two public comment periods. Many parents thanked the school district for their hard work and acknowledged the difficulty of preparing for the 2020-21 school year. They also expressed their concerns about wearing face coverings or not, class sizes creating social distancing challenges, school ventilation questions, conflicts with employment if school does not return to in-person and relying upon parents to screen their children for signs of COVID-19.
Background: The state requires school districts to create plans for schools to reopen after being closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the document, the purpose of the plan is to “maximize the protection of lives while minimizing educational and social disruption.” The plan describes protocols for cleaning, food service, classroom arrangements, hall traffic patterns and isolation rooms.
The plan: In the current green phase, students can attend school in person five days per week or choose one of two virtual learning options — either online with Donegal staff and curriculum or with Donegal Virtual Academy provided by Intermediate Unit 13. In the yellow phase, the options are a blended learning option of one day per week in person with four days virtual or one of the virtual learning options. All staff and students will be required to wear face coverings in school and on the bus in accordance with governmental regulations. To the extent possible, classrooms will be arranged to adhere to social distancing guidelines and students will remain in their classrooms with staff moving between classrooms. Families can tailor their choice to each student’s needs.
Questions: The health and safety plan is available on the district website. Families can contact their building principal with specific questions they would like answered before finalizing their choice of instruction. More information and a survey will be communicated to all families through the school messenger service.
Next steps: Surveys addressing students’ intentions to attend in person or virtually and expected use of bus transportation are due back by Aug. 3. The next school board meeting is Aug. 13 and will be held in person with further information to follow on how the public will participate due to current size limitations on gatherings.