When: Manheim Township virtual school board meeting, Oct. 8.
What happened: Touching on health and safety concerns due to the coronavirus, the board unveiled a range of pandemic-related policies. The board will vote on 10 policies at the Oct. 15 meeting and three at the Nov. 19 meeting.
Examples: A policy on immunizations and communicable diseases now states “guidance and orders from state and local health officials, established board policy and administrative regulations, and health and safety plans will be followed by parents/guardians and staff.” The phrase “need to be quarantined” was added to a sick leave policy. Another policy was revised to allow the superintendent or principals to limit the number of visitors to protect the health and safety of students and employees:
Instructional model concerns: Board member JoAnn Hentz said instructing elementary students remotely and face-to-face at the same time “is not working to the level needed.” for students or teachers. She said teachers are spending 12 hours a day in front of a screen reading homework. “We need to get kids’ eyes off screens….” Board member Joyce Stephens seconded Hentz’s concerns, saying she is concerned about “the sustainability of our teachers.” Assistant Superintendent Dale Reimann said parents with concerns should call or email school principals. He added the district has scheduled six in-service days to help teachers.
Budget woes: Donna Robbins, the district’s chief financial officer, gave a budget update in light of the virus, focusing on food service and the pandemic. She said food service has experienced a significant loss of $312,880 last year. Robbins predicted more losses this school year. The district four pandemic-related grants totaling over $1 million, which has been spent. Without additional funding, the district will need to use general funds to cover any additional expenses, Robbins said.
Demographic data: Reimann reported enrollment at 5,914 students, 63 less than the last school year. He said sixth-grade is the largest, with 492 students, while kindergarten is the smallest, with 384 students. Figures for special education, English learners and gifted students remain mainly unchanged from last school year. Of all school-age children living in the district, 533 students attend private or parochial schools — one third of them at Lancaster Catholic High School and Lancaster Country Day School. Also, 170 are homeschooled, 125 attend cyber charter schools and five attend charter schools.
Quotable: “This is obviously a concern for us,” said Karen Nell, director of federal programs and curriculum and instruction. “We will try to persuade them to come back to Manheim Township.”