District updates families in second reopening forum

Assistant+Superintendent+Dr.+Todd+Bauer%2C+Superintendent+Dr.+Curt+Dietrich%2C+and+Assistant+Superintendent+Dr.+Jenna+Rufo+discuss+scheduling+for+North+Penn+High+School.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd Bauer, Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich, and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jenna Rufo discuss scheduling for North Penn High School.

LANSDALE- As North Penn draws closer to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the District hosted a second forum on what school will look like for students and teachers in September.

The forum began with Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich and Assistant Superintendents Drs. Todd Bauer and Jenna Rufo discussing the results of a survey taken in May-June that asked families if they would be most comfortable with “in-person”, “virtual”, or “hybrid” learning this fall. Elementary families voted 53% in-person, 17% virtual, and 30% hybrid. 7th-9th grade families voted 49% in-person, 13% virtual, and 38% hybrid. North Penn High School families voted 55% in-person, 10% virtual, and 35% hybrid.

The triumvirate then went into detail on an extensive list of procedures that are in place to keep teachers and students safe when they return to in-person learning. Face coverings will be required for staff and students (unless a medical disability prevents and individual from wearing one), social distancing will be practiced whenever possible (desks further apart, no assemblies or field trips, structured recess, all meetings will be held virtually), nurses will have extra PPE,  and classrooms will have first aid kits to limit nurse office visits. 

To contact trace potential spread of COVID-19, seating charts will be set up on buses and in cafeterias and classrooms, and each District building will have a designated “isolation room” for any student or staff member that displays symptoms. Due to large numbers of COVID-19 infectees being asymptomatic, there will not be temperature checks as students and staff enter their building.  

Dr. Rufo explained how the District has been in constant contact with the Montgomery County Department of Health regarding all of the above procedures and many more aspects of North Penn’s constantly evolving preparedness plan.

The information we are sharing with you tonight is the info as we know it today. This is a very fluid situation…things can and most likely will change.”

— Dr. Jenna Rufo

“The information we are sharing with you tonight is the info as we know it today. This is a very fluid situation…things can and most likely will change,” said Rufo.

Dietrich then discussed what is being done to keep NPSD buildings clean. Cleaning will be done more frequently with EPA approved products (each building is equipped with an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer) paper cups will be used at all water fountains, and “ventilation systems will be started two hours in advance of normal time and ending two hours later per American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers guidance.”

All students will bring their Chromebooks to and from school each day, which was not previously the case for elementary students. A list of school supplies will be provided to families, because there  were no longer be communal classroom supplies.

Dr. Bauer then broke down all the work that School Nutrition Services (SNS) has done over the past four months and how breakfast and lunch will be distributed this fall. 

“Anyone that shows up who wants a meal they [SNS] have provided. 10’s of 1,000’s of meals at this point…and counting,” noted Bauer.

Lunches will be held in the cafeteria or gym, with students of course seated six feet apart. For elementary students, breakfast will be served in the classroom and meals will be pre-ordered. Additionally, students will no longer need to punch in their ID number; bar codes will be used. For secondary students, breakfast will still be served in the cafeteria and various kiosks. For all students, items will be prepackaged.

No longer will you reach your hand in to use a spoon or a fork to get salad; you would just grab the prepackaged items that are available.”

— Dr. Todd Bauer

“No longer will you reach your hand in to use a spoon or a fork to get salad; you would just grab the prepackaged items that are available,” explained Bauer.

Dr. Dietrich then dove into what schedules would look like for elementary and secondary schools. For K-6, students will follow the normal roster of subjects, but how those subjects are taught will look different. Specials will be taught in the classroom, and instead of the normal rotating schedule oif Art, Music, Gym, Library, classes will have one special at a time for 9 weeks straight. Students learning virtually will receive a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Students who choose the Hybrid option would attend 2 days per week (Group A Mondays and Tuesdays, Group B Wednesdays and Thursdays, all virtual on Friday).

“One of the things that we did take a lot of the parent feedback on, particularly when we were developing this elementary scheduling option for virtual…which said, overwhelmingly, it was a great job, considering everything that happened and how quickly we need to turn it around, but if this continues, we need more. We want to assure you that [this] will be an enhanced version of what you saw previously,” emphasized Rufo.

Rufo also assured parents that the District understands many elementary students may have fallen behind in this time, but that they are understanding and will give students a basic exam to see where they are at when they return.

“If your child comes back and they’re a little bit behind, we are prepared for that,” said Rufo.

Dr. Bauer then gave the rundown for scheduling at North Penn High School. If they choose in-person, 10th-12th grade students would come in every day and follow a mostly traditional schedule with smaller class sizes. Virtually, students will use the Edgenuity platform through North Penn Virtual Academy. 

Right now, we have over 200 elective courses at the secondary level. It is easier to bring groups together and develop this online curriculum for K-6 than it is for over 200 courses.”

— Dr. Todd Bauer

“Right now, we have over 200 elective courses at the secondary level. It is easier to bring groups together and develop this online curriculum for K-6 than it is for over 200 courses. We are going to use Canvas, we are going to have some synchronous opportunities…but we will pull from Edgenuity for some of those resources as well. It’s not going to be exclusively Edgenuity, but we will utlize some of that,” said Bauer.

Unlike distance learning last spring, this fall will see students learning from home graded with a traditional grading structure. Hybrid learners would come to school either A and D days, B and E days, or C and F days. The Hybrid section of the building will be secluded (A pod, for example) and students will remain in the same room for different classes, when possible. Elective course availability will be difficult, but more information will be available once it is known how many students choose the Hybrid option.

That sentiment was emphasized many times throughout the forum. There are lots of questions that can not be answered until the District gets feedback on how many students will choose each option. The number of students that return to in-person learning will affect staffing, potential staggered arrival times, and other issues. 

Penndale, Pennbrook, and Pennfield will be adopting in-person blocked scheduling. Virtually, the Edgenuity platform would again be used, with abilities to meet with NPSD teachers for any needed support. The Hybird option would be nearly identical to the high school version. North Montco Technical Career Center will be open every day for in-person learning, will often synchronous online learning, but 100% virtual is not an option, due to the nature of many of the courses taught there.

Let’s be real here. There are those possibilities where we are in session for a couple of months, perhaps, then we’re told we have to shut down.”

— Dr. Curt Dietrich

“Let’s be real here. There are those possibilities where we are in session for a couple of months, perhaps, then we’re told we have to shut down.We would have to pivot into the 100% online. But we have to plan with the information that we know,” responded Dietrich.

Families were sent the survey in which they had to choose which option they want on July 16th, and have until July 27th to make their decision. Some parents did raise concerns in the comments section of the forum on the purpose of choosing an option when we could be forced to go 100% virtual at any time.

“Let’s be real here. There are those possibilities where we are in session for a couple of months, perhaps, then we’re told we have to shut down. We would have to pivot into the 100% online. But we have to plan with the information that we know,” responded Dietrich.

“We fully expect that you’ll be monitoring your children before you send them to us…this is a partnership and I think together, we can do this.”