April 6, 2021
Good afternoon West Shore families and staff,
Since the beginning of the school year, we have found a slow, measured approach to be the most effective path in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and avoiding repeated school closures. Periodically through the year, we have evaluated multiple factors, including updated regulations, guidance, and recommendations, local context, and experience of other school districts. At this time, and after reevaluating these factors once again, we feel it is now an appropriate time to move on to the next phase of our reopening plan.
Beginning Monday, April 19, 2021, all West Shore School District middle and high school students, currently attending in-person two days, will return for in-person instruction Monday through Thursday, four days. Friday will remain a virtual day, and students will continue to follow their current Friday schedule.
- Elementary – There will be no change to the current schedule for students in grades K-5 who have been attending Monday through Thursday.
- Low Incidence Students – There will be no change to the current schedule for students in our special education programs who have been attending Monday through Friday.
- Distance Learning & CAOLA - Students who are currently attending school virtually in the Distance Learning/CAOLA models will continue to do so through the end of the school year.
- Changes will not be made to student learning options.*
I encourage you to join us online for this week’s virtual Board Meeting. During the meeting, I will be reviewing our reopening plans. A recording of the meeting will be available online following the meeting, and the presentation will be posted on our website by Friday morning.
In the meantime, here are responses to questions you may have regarding our reopening.
Why only a return to four days instead of five?
Although some of the guidelines and recommendations have been relaxed, schools that operate in counties where there is still substantial community transmission must close if the number of active cases reaches a certain threshold. In other words, the only recent change on the chart provided by PDE is the length of time schools need to close. We are confident that our ability to close on Fridays and through the weekend has been a successful strategy to ensure we could remain open consistently Monday through Thursday. The four-day format also matches the Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School schedule.
With the recent ‘surge’ of cases, why do you believe it is safe to return?
We continue to closely monitor case counts, particularly as they relate to students in our schools. All staff were provided the opportunity to be vaccinated. Additionally, mask compliance has not been an issue and our cleaning/distancing protocols have been effective.
Will the District be able to follow physical distancing with the additional students?
Our goal is to maintain a minimum of 3-6 feet of distance in all areas. We will follow new procedures to maintain sustained physical distancing to the greatest extent possible on buses, in the hallways, cafeteria, and classrooms. To assist with staggering use of communal spaces, students are encouraged to use backpacks. Lockers will be assigned upon request.
How will classrooms look?
Desks and tables will be spaced to accommodate as much physical distancing as possible. The District will actively reduce the number of high touch areas and limit shared materials, objects, and supplies. Weather permitting, outdoor learning spaces will be utilized where available.
How will lunch work?
Physical distancing will occur to the greatest extent possible. Buildings may create additional dining spaces, including outside spaces where appropriate. Hand sanitizing stations will be available, and high touch areas, including tables, will be sanitized after each lunch.
What happens if we reach the number of cases to cause a school closure?
We will follow the same procedures for closure as we have been during this school year.
What happens if I do not want my student to return for four days?
All students who are currently attending two days per week are expected to attend four days per week. Changes will not be made to student learning options.
Will there be any changes in close contact tracing and quarantine procedures?
The District will continue to follow CDC and PA DOH guidance related to close contact tracing and quarantine durations. Based on what we have seen occurring in neighboring districts after they returned in person for additional days, an increase in the number of students being quarantined is likely to occur. As a result, it is especially important that families and students continue to practice safety measures outside the school day and follow CDC recommendations
Thank you for partnering with District staff as we move into this next reopening phase. I am excited to have all our students with us Monday through Thursday for the first time in over a year.
* Changes between in person and CAOLA/Distance Learning cannot be made. However, we recognize some students are finding success with the hybrid model and are achieving at high levels. We also understand some families may not be comfortable sending their child back at this time. Parents with questions or concerns related to the return to four days are asked to contact their building principal to discuss their specific circumstances and possible accommodations to ensure their child's continued success.