AMBLER, PA — In a turnaround from their original plan, Wissahickon middle schools and high schools will have no in-person instruction in schools to begin the fall, they confirmed on Friday morning. Elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grade will reopen as planned under the model offering families a choice of either virtual or in-person schooling.
The decision was made not strictly because of coronavirus concerns but due to staffing shortages for teachers certified in specific education areas, Superintendent James Crisfield said in a letter to the school community.
“Secondary teachers must be certificated in specific subject areas in order to be legally allowed to teach classes, and with more surrounding districts moving to 100% virtual, we are unable at this time to staff the secondary schools to open as planned,” Crisfield wrote.
The decision to move fully online for secondary students will be re-evaluated at the end of the first marking period. If conditions improve and staffing can be optimized, the school could offer in-person instruction at that time as part of a hybrid model.
In addition, the elementary schools have already hired ten more teachers to help spread out classrooms. Teacher assignments are being finalized, and families will be notified by Aug. 24.
The virtual model will include all classes taught by Wissahickon teachers.
Staffing shortages have also impacted other districts in the area, including Central Bucks.
The move comes as several Montgomery County school districts have altered plans in recent weeks and decided to move fully online. As recently as mid to late July, most districts were strongly considering a hybrid model similar to Wissahickon’s original plan.
However, the persistence of the virus in the region, and specifically lag times on coronavirus test results leading to concerns over the accuracy and feasability of contact tracing, led many districts to reconsider.
Crisfield praised the work of school administrators and staff who have worked through the summer.
“Very little (if any) time off this summer for principals and other administrators to recharge batteries that were already sputtering from the spring tsunami. Zero complaining. Can-do attitudes in every corner. This is the mark of a truly dedicated and gifted leadership team, and Wissahickon is fortunate to have such personnel in place. No way we make this happen without them.”
District families will receive further guidance on details of the reopening later on Friday.
This article originally appeared on the Lower Gwynedd-Ambler-Whitpain Patch