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SUPERINTENDENT’S RECOMMENDATION TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION FOR THE START OF THE 2020-2021 SCHOOL YEAR

Reopening Plan PDF

July 27, 2020


Dear Charleroi Area School District Parents, Guardians, and Stakeholders:

I hope that this letter finds you and your family healthy and well as this summer progresses.

The Charleroi Area administration team has been working cooperatively with our teachers, staff, bus drivers, and support personnel over the last two months to identify the safest and most meaningful approach for the reopening of schools for this coming school year.  As we all know, the coronavirus pandemic situation changes daily, and therefore our plan must be able to adapt as well.  With this in mind, the administrative team is recommending a student start date of Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

A few weeks ago, we announced our preliminary plan for the beginning of the 2020-2021 to be a return to in-school classes, five days a week.  Additionally, any parent or guardian who felt more comfortable keeping their child home could, as an alternative, enroll their child in our revamped online learning academy for the year.

Since that announcement, however, several factors have changed:

  • Cases have dramatically increased both in southwestern Pennsylvania and across the entire Commonwealth.  Over the past few days, the expected surge in hospitalizations has begun as well.  
    • Cases in Pennsylvania, Commonwealth-wide, are now averaging around 1,000 per day and rising.  These numbers are similar to where the state was when schools shut down in March.
    • While southwestern Pennsylvania hospitals remain below capacity, hospitalization rates are increasing.  Studies show that hospitalization rates will surge 3-4 weeks after cases begin to increase.  Therefore, we may only be seeing the beginning of increased hospitalizations.
    •  Southwestern Pennsylvania is generally becoming a hot-spot of coronavirus activity over the last 3-4 weeks.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education is continually issuing revised and updated guidelines for a phased reopening of local school districts.
  • As social distancing becomes increasingly more necessary inside of school buildings, administrators and staff must consider how effective social distancing can occur with school buildings at either full or 50% capacity.  Considerations in this regard include:
    • Ensuring that desks are spaced six feet apart;
    • Avoiding overcrowding in common areas such as hallways and stairwells; and
    • Being able to provide adequate breakfast and lunch arrangements.
  • Similarly, our normal bussing routines and schedules will need to be significantly altered not just to comply with PDE’s guidelines and recommendations, but to better ensure the continued health, safety, and welfare of our students, educators, and support staff.

OPTIONS FOR 2020-2021 INSTRUCTION

At the school board meeting on July 28, 2020, the Board will be considering and voting on a 2020-2021 Reopening, Health, and Safety Plan.  At its core, the plan outlines three phases of in-school, face to face instruction, while also giving parents and guardians the option of remote learning for the entire year.  Parents/Guardians must choose one of the two options for their children for this year. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The color phase for the Charleroi Area School District will not always be tied to the color phase of Washington County.  As circumstances warrant or as the Secretaries of Education or Health may order, the Board of Education and Administration may place the District into a phase that is different than the general phase of Washington County.

Option 1: Face to Face Instruction

As circumstances warrant, students choosing this option will attend classes in-school; the frequency of when in-class instruction will occur is described in each of the three phases.  

 CASD Phases

 

Option 2: Remote Learning

Students choosing this option will attend school via the all new Charleroi Area School District Online Learning Academy.  With this option, teachers will be recording and/or streaming lessons throughout the school day.  Students will be required to log in and watch the classroom sessions.  Some of these will be recorded, and others will be live, being taught synchronously with the in-school students.  In each case, online students will have the opportunity for one-on-one support with the assigned classroom teacher.

SUPERINTENDENT’S RECOMMENDATION TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION
FOR THE START OF THE 2020-2021 SCHOOL YEAR

Despite Washington County currently being in the Green phase, given the recent spike both in cases and hospitalizations over the last days and weeks, I will be recommending to the Board of Education on Tuesday July 28  meeting that the District begin 2020-2021 in the YELLOW PHASE on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.  This was not a decision I undertook lightly, as I understand the importance of having our kids in school as much as possible for learning and social interaction.  However, the combination of the sharp increase in cases and hospitalizations in our region, along with the concerns cited above, led me to this conclusion.  This is only a recommendation – the Board of Education must still approve not just our starting phase, but the Reopening Plan as a whole.  

CHOOSING YOUR 2020-2021 LEARNING OPTION

In the coming days, the District will be sending out a learning option and technology survey, similar to the survey that was sent out District-wide when school was forced to close in March.  We ask that parents/guardians complete the survey as soon as possible when sent out, so that we can finalize plans for staffing and issuing technology to students in need.  While District-owned technology devices will once again be provided by the District for families in need, we ask that if you have a PC, laptop, Chromebook, or other device that is capable of running Google Classroom that you do not ask to borrow a device from the District.  

SAFETY CONCERNS AND REQUIREMENTS

Upon the approval of the 2020-2021 Reopening, Health, and Safety Plan, the Board of Education will be implementing several new policies and procedures for the continued protection of students, educators, and support staff.

Face Coverings

Unless a student, parent, visitor, educator, or staff person has a documented health condition or disability through an IEP, Section 504 plan, or as otherwise documented pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, face coverings will generally be required at all times inside of district facilities.  It is important to note that if a student is seated in a classroom more than 6 feet apart from their peers, they may remove their facemask. You should review the Reopening Plan and new district policy 805.3 after its passage at the July 28th meeting for more details.

Daily Symptom Checking

Parents will be required to symptom-check their child every day prior to either placing the child on a school bus or dropping the child off at school.  The CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health continue to develop home symptom checking checklists, and these will be shared with you in the near future.  In general, however, any student who shows the following symptoms should not report to school:
•    Temperature 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher when taken by mouth;
•    Sore throat;
•    New uncontrolled cough that causes difficulty breathing (for students with chronic allergic/asthmatic cough, a change in their cough from baseline);
•    Diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal pain; or
•    New onset of severe headache, especially with a fever.

Cleaning and Sanitizing District Facilities

The District has taken the initiative throughout the summer months to procure sufficient protective equipment, disinfectants, and other necessary items for the cleaning of the District’s facilities both day-to-day, and for “deep cleans” over the weekends.  The District’s support, custodial, and maintenance have and will continue to work diligently to make sure that your children attend in-school classes in as safe and clean an environment as possible.


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

Once again, pending approval by the Board of Education, the Charleroi Area School District will begin the 2020-2021 on Tuesday, September 8 in the Yellow Phase of the Reopening Plan.  Regardless of phase, parents and guardians will have the choice of their students either attending classes in-school or 100% remotely in the District’s remote learning academy.  We will be asking parents/guardians to make that decision via electronic survey in the coming days.  Students will have the option to transition from online classes to hybrid in person classes. More information will follow regarding transitioning plans will follow in the near future.  

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the education of your child for this upcoming school year, please contact your building principal.  We believe that the plans and policies put forward for the 2020-2021 school year are both comprehensive and flexible enough to provide as much normalcy and safety for our students, educators, and staff as possible.  On behalf of our Board of Education and entire District community, I want to thank you for your understanding and incredible amount of support that has been shown over the past four months.  Most especially, the encouragement and backing that you and the members of our community have shared with the Class of 2020 and our educators has been phenomenal.  With your continued support, I know that the 2020-2021 school year will be a rousing success for the Charleroi Area School District.

Sincerely,

Edward Zelich
Superintendent of Schools 
 





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