When: School District of Lancaster school board meeting, Oct. 20.
What happened: In a meeting that lasted almost to midnight, the board provided the superintendent leeway to flex the district’s COVID-19 health metric for elementary school students.
What it means: On Oct. 26, prekindergarten, kindergarten, first and third grades will return to school for a blended model, which means they will receive two days of in-person instruction with three days of at-home learning. Students in second, fourth and fifth grades will begin this blended model the week of Nov 2. The district has delayed the return dates for students in grades six through 12.
Disagreement: The vote was 6-3 with Ramon Escudero, Salina Almanzar and Robin Goodson dissenting. Almanzar said it was not fair to teachers who were counting on the metric to assess their work conditions.
Why the change: Board member Dave Perry said he proposed flexing the metric because of students’ educational needs and research stating younger children possess a lower risk of spreading COVID-19. Earlier in the meeting, Superintendent Damaris Rau and Assistant Superintendent Carol Powell presented data that revealed district students are not progressing as well with virtual instruction.
Background: In September, the board approved a health metric that states the district can transition students to school with 36 to 60 weekly cases per 100,000 residents.
Public: The board received dozens of comments from both teachers and parents mostly through the online forum. The district spokesperson read them aloud to the board. Most teachers said they did not want the district to break the metric or rush returning to school. Some parents said their children were not as engaged in online schooling.
Teacher: “ …the metric was one way we knew that the teachers’ safety and lives were considered valuable along with students,” said district teacher Meredith Powell in the online forum.
Parent: Rebecca Fennimore said in the online forum, “…our family feels strongly that it would be in the best interest of our child to move to blended learning at this time.”
What’s next: The board will meet at 6 p.m. Nov. 2, for a school naming meeting, and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 4 for a regular committee meeting, with limited seating in the media center of the McCaskey East High School building, 1051 Lehigh Ave. The public can watch it livestream and submit comments from the district website.