With 73% of Coatesville parents surveyed saying they want their students to return to in-person instruction, the Coatesville Area school board in Chester County on Oct. 13 approved a 43-page reopening plan that will bring students back into classrooms beginning Nov. 9.
Buses will roll back to Coatesville schools just days after film star Adam Sandler and production crews roll their trailers out after shooting the new Netflix movie “Hustle” in the Coatesville Intermediate High School basketball gym.
Sandler is now in Philadelphia shooting the movie he is producing with basketball star LeBron James.
The school board will rent the gym out for filming Oct. 26 through Nov. 5. Under the contract, which the district has labeled “confidential,” Coatesville will be paid $81,170 and also receive a new scoreboard.
Netflix has not yet announced a release date for the comedy.
Superintendent Tomas Hanna said the planned hybrid return is not ideal. Recommended social distancing and staffing issues — with many staff requesting leaves of absence during the pandemic — prevent Coatesville from bringing all students back at once for daily instruction.
Under the hybrid plan approved by the school board in a 6-2 vote during the remote meeting, students will be split into three cohorts labeled A, B and C and travel by bus to school on scheduled days.
Each day, one-third of students will learn in person, while the others will attend classes from home via Zoom on Chromebooks. Hanna said breakfast will be served in classrooms, lunch in cafeterias, and staff will maintain hygiene and social distancing measures. Families with students at home will still be able to pick up free breakfasts and lunches. Classrooms will be closed for deep cleaning on certain Wednesdays.
During lengthy public comment, some parents and teachers expressed concern about whether the needs of special education students are being met during remote instruction. Coatesville brought some of its neediest special education students back to classrooms this fall, but Hanna expressed regret they haven’t been able to welcome back all special education students.
Katie Hadzor of Coatesville Community and Parents, and Audra Ritter, president of the Coatesville Area Teachers Association, asked the school board to postpone making a decision. Ritter said the plan, to be posted on the district’s website, is confusing. She asked the school board to table the plan and collaborate with the teachers union.
Board member Henry Assetto said he lost his only sister to COVID-19 in August and cautioned against bringing students back so soon. Assetto and board member Mary Ann Harris voted against the reopening plan, with board members Robert Fisher, Amelia Mills, Andrew Finkbohner, Brandon Rhone, James Bookman and Rebecca Harlan approving. Board member Thomas Keech was absent.
Bookman said students want to go back to school, but he is concerned students with individualized education plans are falling behind, and the plan will “make things a little more comfortable for everyone.” Mills said not every point in the plan will make everyone happy, but “it’s important to get kids back to school.”