Eastern York School District students in grades six through 12 will not be returning to in-person classes five days a week after all.
The district’s school board had voted last month to give those students the option to either attend school full-time in-person or full-time remotely led by the district's teachers. That decision was rescinded during a special board meeting on Aug. 10 after administrators told the board offering both plans would result in needing to spend almost $1 million to hire additional teachers.
In a separate vote, the board changed the options available in grades six through eight to either a blended plan or full-time remote instruction by the district's teaching staff. High school students will choose between the blended option or the Eastern York Cyber Academy, which is also available to elementary and middle school students. The district contracts with the online Odysseyware Academy to provide the cyber academy’s instruction, with district staff assigned to track student engagement.
Under the blended option students spend two days in a classroom and work remotely the other three days. Students will be divided into groups that attend on Mondays and Tuesdays and students who are in school Thursdays and Fridays. Students will have remote learning classes instructed by district teachers on Wednesdays and a combination of online lessons and “enhanced remote online learning experiences from home” on the other two days they are not in school.
Middle school Principal Keith Shoemaker said after studying the result of a survey of parental preferences, it was determined that each of the three middle school grades would have more than 100 students opting for five days a week, in-person instruction. Because of state guidelines limiting the number of students that can gather in a classroom to 25, that would have resulted in an extra section of students for each grade and the hiring of 12 teachers.
Left unchanged are the options for elementary school students, who can still choose from in-person, blended or full-time remote options, in addition to the cyber academy. Guidance from the state education and health departments, issued the same day as this meeting, recommended York County, with a moderate level of community transmission, use blended and full remote learning models.
During the meeting, Superintendent Joseph W. Mancuso III told the board that presently the guidelines are only advisory in nature. In a follow up email. Mancuso said the district currently plans to keep the in-person option for elementary students because the number of students who will actually be in the buildings will be greatly reduced.
The board voted 6-3 to rescind the prior instructional plan and adopt the new plan, as well as approve the state-required health and safety plans. Opposing the changes were Darvin Shelley, James Reese and Mark D. Keller; all three have been ardent supporters of returning to a full-five days a week, in person model. Voting in favor of all three measures were Richard Holtzinger, Jon Shevelew, Douglas Bailey Jr., Richard Zepp, Todd Lentz and Jason Malone.
As a general rule, students will be expected to stick with whatever option they select at least to the end of the first marking period. Individual cases with unique circumstances will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The board plans to review the situation should conditions change.
“The goal is to get everybody back in school as soon as possible,” said Malone, who serves as the board president.
Both Malone and Mancuso emphasized that changes and updates in guidance and decision-making tools from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the state Department of Health make it a fluid situation.
“We have to understand that wholesale changes would affect our plan,” Mancuso said.