SDL - McCaskey

A view of McCaskey High School, in the School District of Lancaster.

When: School District of Lancaster board meeting, Sept. 7.

What happened: District administrators unveiled a contingency learning option should the state or federal government shutter schools because of COVID-19 or another catastrophic event. The state Department of Education now requires each district to approve an Emergency Instructional Time Template.

What’s new: The district will not offer a blended educational plan this year because it didn’t work last year, said Karen Wynn, who directs the district’s instructional programs and professional development. This hybrid option gave students two days of in-person instruction and three days of online learning.

Quotable: “That’s a long time for kids to sit in front of a computer,” Wynn said. “We heard this from parents, teachers and students.”

Problems: Data from last year showed that a majority of students learning to read failed that endeavor when they were limited to two days inside of their classroom. The district divided students in blended learning into two groups. One group attended school Mondays and Tuesdays, while the other group attended Thursdays and Fridays. Both groups worked on online assignments during the remaining school days. The district found it hard to hold students accountable with so little time with their teachers, Wynn said.

How it would work: If a mandate closes schools, students will follow their individual schedules over Zoom, in real time. Teachers will follow the district’s newly updated Guidelines for Virtual Learning. Board members will vote on the plan Sept. 21, and Wynn noted the template may be updated at any time to include blended learning.

Tennis and education: Board members authorized staff to move forward with a project that would put tennis courts on district land near Washington Elementary School. District officials first met with First Serve Lancaster in 2018. The nonprofit wants to build a tournament-ready National Class Junior Tennis and Learning Center with no cost to the School District of Lancaster for construction or center management.

More info: First Serve, run by former United States Tennis Association President Judy Levering and husband Gordon, wants to build on 85,000 square feet of vacant land between Washington Elementary and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

Pandemic problems: First Serve received the district’s permission to conduct a feasibility study, but COVID-19 interrupted those plans, said Matt Przywara, the district’s chief financial operations officer.

Next: The school board’s committee of the whole meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14. The public can view meetings and register to comment on the district website.

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