LANSDALE, PA — The North Penn School Board of Directors voted on Thursday evening to begin the school year fully online, with no in-person instruction through early November. They join Norristown and Upper Dublin as other Montgomery County school districts who have decided against bringing students back into physical classrooms to start the year.
The board unanimously passed the motion, 9-0. The board will consider a possible shift to a hybrid model, with students learning partially online and partially in-person, on Nov. 6, which is the end of the marking period for older students.
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“As we learn more, we can adjust accordingly,” board member Jonathan Kassa said during the meeting.
Both the board and members of the school community who participated in the public meeting cited the numerous risks and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic and its course in the county. They found that the previously considered hybrid and in-person options were not safe.
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“Unfortunately, given the current environment as our community addresses a crisis which has not stabilized, the unpredictable nature of this pandemic has forced us to prioritize public health above all else,” the board said in a statement issued later on Friday.
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Students will follow a normal school day schedule, five days a week, starting on Aug. 31, using the Canvas e-learning platform. Specific details on the virtual instruction model will be made available to the school community in the coming days.
The district will also be developing individualized education plans for both gifted students and students with disabilities.
The school board met with Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh to discuss their options earlier this week. Arkoosh told the board she was optimistic that the long waiting times for test results in the county would be resolved by that point, as the county is hiring a new lab. Delays of up to two weeks in test results has been an added challenge for school officials around the county, as such delays would make contact tracing very difficult.
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Officials hope the new lab will have results returned routinely within 36 hours, which means schools would have both a more accurate picture of the present course of the virus, as well as more effective contact tracing and quarantining.
The decision also left many in the district who were proponents of reopening the district deeply disappointed. Detractors cited both the deleterious effects of distance learning on the education of the youngest age brackets, particularly elementary school children, as well as the struggles which families face as parents return to work.
The board reiterated that though they planned on reevaluating the conditions in the area and their status on Nov. 6, at the latest that they could also reassess things “at any second” and make changes if found prudent.
To help facilitate the transition to fully virtual instruction, North Penn will hire “coaches” for the Canvas e-learning platform. These individuals will support teachers and help the district employ best practices.
You can watch the full two and a half hour board meeting below.
This article originally appeared on the Montgomeryville-Lansdale Patch