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Superintendent: Students aren’t ‘out for summer’

WCSD proceeds with continuity of education plan

Youngsville High School.

Students will not be returning to their Pennsylvania classrooms this school year, but Warren County School District is not ‘out for summer.’

In a Thursday morning announcement, Gov. Tom Wolf extended the indefinite, state-wide schools closure through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Warren County School District officials were not aware of the timing, but expected this declaration at some point.

“We were not aware this announcement was coming (Thursday morning), but I cannot say that we are surprised,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said later Thursday.

At a school board meeting on March 30, Stewart said she would be surprised if school buildings were reopened before the end of the school year.

The district had been moving forward with that assumption in mind, and little will change with the formal announcement.

“Right now, we have two essential functions, feeding students and providing educational continuity,” Stewart said. “This announcement does not change our course on either of those functions.”

Stewart announced the district’s continuity of education plan at a meeting of the school board’s curriculum, instruction, and technology committee.

The plan is fluid, but currently has four phases. Phase one was accomplished with the delivery of general review and enrichment materials to all students.

“Educational continuity is taking shape,” Stewart said. “Students have general review and enrichment materials. Their teachers are busy working on specific materials for their students, and they are also working together to develop projects the students will be working on to finish out the last marking period.”

“We are taking more steps every day toward being able to teach students online, and at the same time, taking steps to make sure we can get to our 1,000-plus students who need offline work.”

Phase two — specific review and enrichment materials — should be delivered on Thursday, April 16, and contain enough material to last through Monday, April 27.

At that time, secondary students (grades six through twelve) will begin to receive specific instruction from their teachers – offline materials will be delivered on Tuesday, April 28. Elementary students will continue with specific review and enrichment.

Grades for secondary students will be based on their completion of “application-based projects” that are due no later than Friday, May 22.

Phase four is a plan for making up for lost time. Possible changes to the district’s summer offerings have been discussed at the board level. Officials are also expecting to have to make changes to the curriculum for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Prior to the governor’s announcement, the district knew it would be challenged to meet the nutritional needs of students over the Easter weekend through it’s grab-and-go meal program. The district is not approved to serve weekend meals, but Friday and Monday were both scheduled to be off days for the district. That meant sending home three days of breakfasts and lunches to any child 18 and under who wanted them.

“We sent home meals with students today to cover Thursday, Friday and Monday,” Stewart said. “Our staff prepared, moved and distributed 6,000 meals. I can’t say enough positive things about our employees making this happen. I knew I was asking a lot of them when I asked them to make sure the kids didn’t miss meals on Friday and Monday. They really hit the ball out of the park today.

“I don’t expect people to understand what it takes to get this much food out to our kids, but if you know anyone involved in our operation, please take the time to thank them,” she said. “This is a very important service to our community at this difficult time.”

District officials continue to receive questions about events that typically occur at the end of each school year, as well as issues related to the cancellation of the spring sports season.

“We are getting questions about graduation, senior awards, caps and gowns, yearbooks, locker clean-outs, refunds on trips, refunds on spring sports, etc.,” Stewart said. “Now that we know students will not be returning, we will update our FAQ document and get those answers out to everyone early next week.”

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