Message Sent - November 24, 2020
Good evening everyone,
Despite any rumors you or your children may have heard, it is my intent to keep our schools open with students and staff continuing to attend classes in-person following Thanksgiving recess. Today’s message provides an update on these efforts and information for families on making changes to their Phase 2 Parent Commitments.
In the days following my last update
, we have received additional guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH). As you may have heard, school districts, like West Shore, that wish to continue offering in-person learning must submit an Attestation Form. This form confirms for PDE and PA DOH that our District efforts comply with the updated universal face coverings Order
and the Commonwealth’s recommendations for schools following identification of COVID-19 cases
. The District will be submitting an Attestation Form
; however, it will take all of us working collaboratively to ensure we comply with the Orders and more importantly to ensure our schools remain open.
Masks and Face Shields
As indicated last Friday, the updated Mask Order removed face shields from the definition of a face covering and instead, considers them an “alternative to a face covering.” This change applies to all staff and students. Therefore, following the Thanksgiving recess, face shields will no longer be acceptable without appropriate documentation.
- Staff – If a staff member believes he/she has a medical or mental health condition or disability that would permit him/her to wear an alternative to a face covering (i.e. a face shield), please reach out to Mrs. Suzanne Tabachini, Director of Human Resources, to begin the one-on-one process of determining if an accommodation is appropriate.
- Students – PDE recommends any documentation provided be in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or IDEA of such medical or mental health condition or disability. If your child has a medical or mental health condition or disability that you believe would permit an alternative to a face covering (i.e. a face shield), and it has not already been documented, please reach out to your school principal to discuss your child’s need for accommodation.
For both staff and students, it is important to note that a doctor’s note alone is not sufficient documentation to exempt an individual from wearing a mask or to wear a face shield.
Travel Order, Quarantine Requirements, and Educational Trips
In response to the Travel Order, any pre-approved or future educational trip or holiday travel to an out-of-state or international location will require a 14-day quarantine upon return or the staff or student to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering Pennsylvania.
For a traveler outside of the Commonwealth for periods shorter than 72 hours, in which getting a timely test is not possible or practicable prior to returning, that individual should quarantine for 14-days upon their reentry, or until they can provide a negative test received after their reentry to the Commonwealth. The negative test is needed in order to end the quarantine period and return to school or work.
Families who are planning an Educational Trip outside Pennsylvania can discuss their need to quarantine upon their return with their building principal(s).
COVID-19 Cases and Quarantine Numbers
In addition to the email communication families receive following a positive case which has impacted their child’s school, in the next week, we will be adding a chart to the District website which tracks COVID-19 active cases, quarantine numbers, and enrollment numbers for each school building. We hope this chart will allow families to monitor the status of our schools and our ability to remain open.
Renewed Learning Commitments
In September, we asked families to make a Phase 2 Commitment through January 2021. Whether your child has been learning in school or remotely, it is our hope they are finding success in the option you chose. However, we realize family situations may have changed and with the second semester quickly approaching, we are providing an opportunity for those interested in doing so, to request a change to their Phase 2 learning option choice
Factors to consider as you decide whether a change is best for your child:
- At this time, given current conditions, we do not anticipate transitioning beyond Phase 2, and our current learning options, in the near future.
- We may not be able to honor all requests for changes.
- Changes in learning options will likely result in teacher changes and could also result in changes to a child’s home school.
- Approved changes will be effective January 19, 2021. Our goal is to create the least amount of disruption to our students and staff, and therefore, these changes are likely to continue for the remainder of the school year.
What if I decide I don’t want to change my child’s learning option?
No action is needed. If you do not complete the form below, your child will automatically remain in their current learning option.
What do I do if I would like to request a change?
If you would like to request a change to your child’s current learning option, please complete our Phase 2 Parent Commitment Change Request Form.
Deadline: Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 4 p.m.
At that time, the request form will no longer be available.
If you have multiple children, please complete one form for each.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Message Sent - November 20, 2020
Good afternoon everyone,
In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in the number of reported positive cases of COVID-19 in our school communities. Although case counts and quarantine numbers have increased, there is nothing to suggest our schools are unsafe or that they are contributing to the spread of the virus. While the source of any case is difficult to determine with absolute certainty, it has been our finding through contact tracing, that the greatest exposure occurs at events, activities, gatherings, and interactions that occur outside the school setting and where compliance with physical distancing and mask wearing is less stringent. Further, our efforts to quarantine close contacts have proven effective in mitigating the spread of the virus in our schools.
With our schools proving to be safe spaces for students and staff, at this time our plan is to remain open and to follow our existing student schedules.
Keeping Our Schools Open
On Tuesday, November 17, Secretary Levine issued Orders related to the wearing of masks and travel to/from any state or international location outside Pennsylvania. If you have not reviewed these Orders or the Frequently Asked Questions shared by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH), I strongly encourage you to do so.
Significant changes to the Mask Order which will impact our District include:
- Plastic face shields are no longer an acceptable option for a face mask unless a documented disability/medical condition prevents a person from wearing a face mask.
- Coaches, all student athletes (including cheerleaders), and spectators must wear a mask indoors and outdoors. For student athletes this includes while actively engaged in workouts, competition, on the sidelines, etc.
Significant changes to the Travel Order which will impact our District include:
- Pennsylvanians who are returning from visiting another state or country are now required to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania, unless they qualify for one of the exemptions.
School districts must comply with these Orders, and we intend to do so; however, we are particularly concerned about the requirements of the travel Order, and its possible impact on our ability to operate effectively and in person. In particular, we worry about enforcement of a travel Order that is highly dependent upon individuals disclosing out of state travel, the ability of our students and staff to receive timely COVID-19 testing, and the impact a large number of students and staff in quarantine could have on our ability to operate schools effectively following the holiday break. Staff and families who are planning to travel outside Pennsylvania should discuss their need to quarantine after the break with their building principal or supervisor as soon as possible.
As we have shared before, although we have every intention of remaining open, it is important staff and families be prepared for the very real possibility we may need to close schools, or the entire District, for a few days or weeks with very little notice. Students and staff, and their families, can support our endeavor to remain open by taking seriously their collective responsibility to adhere to the updated Mask and Travel Orders, particularly during the Thanksgiving break.
Phase 2 Parent Commitments
Prior to Tuesday’s Orders from PA DOH, our plan was to send families information this week on continuing or changing their Phase 2 Parent Commitment for the second semester. In light of the Orders and any additional updates that may be forthcoming from other government agencies before the Thanksgiving break, we are waiting to send that communication.
I want you to know our staff and students’ safety, and your health and safety remain at the forefront of my mind as I make decisions that will impact how and where we deliver instruction. I understand these new Orders may be difficult to adhere to, especially with the holidays upon us, but our ability to remain open will be directly impacted by the actions of our students, parents, and staff. As you take time to rest and relax over Thanksgiving Recess, I hope you will follow the CDC guidelines
for holiday celebrations and small gatherings. It will take all of us working together to ensure our schools remain safe places for students to learn.
As a reminder, there will be no school from Monday, November 23, through Monday, November 30. Classes will resume on Tuesday, December 1, cycle day 2.
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Message Sent - November 5, 2020
Good evening West Shore Students, Parents, and Staff,
My goal since we reopened our schools has been to remain open. To that end, we have been doing our best to keep our schools a safe and healthy place for our students and staff. Over the last few weeks, this has meant having to close a few classrooms, cancel some activities, and in many instances quarantining individuals. Today, we made the difficult decision to close New Cumberland Middle School effective tomorrow, November 6 and to continue minimally through November 15.
Several factors were considered when making the decision to close New Cumberland, including continued community spread, the number of positive cases affecting our school community, the number of students and staff required to quarantine as a result of those cases, and Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) and Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) guidance. Each of these were taken into consideration in the context of safety. Following are some additional challenges we are currently facing related to community spread and staffing.
Community Spread - In the last week, we have seen an increase in the number of positive cases in our community and health organizations are predicting those numbers will continue to rise. This community spread is unavoidably impacting our school community as well and is reflected in the number of students and staff required to quarantine. As we track confirmed/presumed positive cases and monitor those self-quarantining across the District, the unfortunate reality is that the spread is often outside our control and not related to our efforts. As a general reminder, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing remain the best strategies for mitigating the spread of the virus.
Staffing - One area of great concern is staffing. With an increase in the number of staff quarantining, there are some associated challenges, including a shortage of substitutes. As you may be aware or have experienced, students in some classes are learning in school through instruction of their teachers via Zoom. While not ideal, it was one solution to the substitute shortage that also allowed us to keep students in school and remain connected to their teacher(s).
In light of these challenges and today’s school closure, I want to remind you to have a plan in place for the possibility of additional class and school closures. As positive cases in the community continue to rise, it is important families be prepared for the very real possibility we may need to close other schools for a few days or weeks.
Additionally, I want to ask you to be mindful of time spent interacting with others and at what distance. The contact tracing process includes a thorough review of interactions going back as far as 48 hours prior to the onset of someone’s symptoms. Personal interactions that can be limited in time and at a greater distance will help in reducing the number of individuals identified as close contacts requiring quarantine when positive cases are reported.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to remind you that the Phase 2 commitments parents made in PowerSchool prior to our reopening were through January 2021. At this time, given current conditions, we do not anticipate transitioning beyond Phase 2 in the near future. More information will be coming to you about renewing your Phase 2 commitment or changing it to one of the other learning options that better suits your family for the rest of the school year. If you haven’t already, please begin having discussions about what you would like to do, and if you need assistance with setting up a PowerSchool account, contact your child’s school.
Two months ago, eight months ago, one year ago, we could not have imagined the challenges and changes that COVID-19 would bring to our schools and daily lives. One constant throughout those changes has been your support and patience. I want to close by sharing how grateful I am to each of you as we have navigated this challenging situation together.
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.