The start of the Tunkhannock Area school year for students has been pushed back a week, with the first day for students now Aug. 31, instead of Aug. 24.
The school board on Thursday approved the change, 7-0, with board members William Swilley and John Burke absent.
Teacher in-service days will remain Aug. 17-20 as was proposed in May and approved in June.
With the new start date, the last day of classes will be Wednesday, June 2, according to the new calendar.
While a new start date was approved, what the classes might look like is a work in progress.
At present, grades kindergarten through sixth, as well as life skills support and autistic support, will meet five days a week, with some primary grade instruction (K-2) to be in classrooms in the old Mehoopany school, as well as the Primary Center in Tunkhannock (K-2) along with the Intermediate Center (3-6).
The board unanimously approved a ‘Phased School Reopening Health and Safety Plan’ which also includes a blended reopening for grades 7-12 alternating days of in-person learning and remote learning for all students.
As discussed in early July, grades 7-12 in the student body would be divided into two groups with each group expected to see two days of in-person learning in the school and two days remote learning with Fridays set aside as remote learning days for everyone.
The health and safety plan did not pointedly deal with instruction, but did address expectations for public health and safety, of students and staff with this assumption:
“All decision makers should be mindful that as long as there are cases of COVID-19 in the community, there are no strategies that can completely eliminate transmission risk within a school population. The goal is to keep transmission as low as possible to safely continue school activities.”
The Tunkhannock Area plan is currently in the green phase with the possibility of movement from more to less restrictive designations or vice-versa depending on local public health conditions.
The plan includes protocols for cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and ventilation; social distancing; monitoring student and staff health; sporting activities; sharing of materials; communal spaces and hallways; and transportation; as well as strategies for responding to possible exposure.
Superintendent Heather McPherson went over all these areas and more in a lengthy PowerPoint presentation.
While these aspects of a phased reopening plan all speak to a brick and mortar commitment to coming to school a certain number of days a week depending on the child’s grade level, McPherson said she gets that some parents might still be reluctant to send their children to school whenever there is believed to be some risk with a number of increased cases surfacing in the community.
So, she spoke to the district’s TASD Fusion C-3 program, with a complete focus on remote learning but with access to the resources of the Tunkhannock district.
She said that if parents wished to go that route a commitment of the first 45 days of the school year would need to be registered by Aug. 3.
More details will be posted on the district’s website at www.tasd.net.
She also graciously extended her office phone number to anyone who might have lingering concerns or questions, and parents should feel free to contact her at 570-836-3111, ext. 1000.
“I would prefer to have a conversation with you if you have concerns’” she said.
Other actions of the board included:
- adding 5 cents to the price of a meal (for Intermediate Center, STEM and High School students) with prices of breakfast going from $1.85 to $1.90; and for lunch from $2.95 to $3; adult prices would go from $3 to $3.05 for breakfast and $5 to $5.05 for lunch. The motion to increase prices passed 5-2, with Lori Bennett and Bill Weidner voting against;
- a first reading of a board policy addressing non-resident students (typically children of faculty members who might live outside the district);
- acceptance of an amendment to ‘Guidelines for the Reimplementation of Extra-Curricular Activities’ per the governor’s order.
- approval of the retirement of Intermediate Center secretary Marsillia Castellano;
- approval of Bob Barkley as a Math Intervention Specialist based on Title IV funding;
- approval of a posting of a one-year clerical and a one-year custodial position as well as temporary one-year position for a security officer.
- approval of a group of extracurricular appointments including Jeff Howell as junior high volleyball coach, Ellie Kuzma as girls’ head tennis coach, Amanda Hardy as girls’ volleyball assistant, Daniel Brown as athletic filmer, and Dylan Flexer as junior high football assistant coach;
approval of Barbara Landon, Jim Landon and Shana Gregory to be added to the volunteer list.