PHILADELPHIA, PA — With just about a month to go before school resumes for the fall, districts throughout the region and country continue to grapple with how best to offer instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Tom Wolf has determined that Pennsylvania public schools in the state’s yellow and green phases can resume in-person instruction in the fall, provided their district creates an approved safety plan. The safety plan, which must be approved by the school board, lays out how the districts will provide instruction, whether it’s through an in-person model, hybrid, or all virtual.
Earlier this month, state health and education officials issued updated guidance for schools as they prepare for the start of in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The updated guidance clarifies that students must wear masks at all times during the school day, except when eating, drinking or situated six feet apart.
The state guidance also includes specific recommendations on social distancing, transportation safety, and procedures in the event a student or staff member becomes infected.
With all the moving parts to consider, districts in the metro Philadelphia area are taking a range of approaches to the complex predicament. Some are offering in-person instruction while others plan to go fully virtual. Others are leaning towards a blend of in-person and online instruction so as to accommodate distancing guidelines.
Most districts in the region are currently planning to offer some form of in-person instruction, whether it’s allowing parents to choose a traditional five-day option, or providing a hybrid model that blends in-person education with online learning. A minority of districts say they will be online only for the duration of the fall.
Many other districts continue to finalize plans, and have not yet set a schedule or plan as of this week.
Here’s a look at the latest on what area school districts have planned for the fall:
Check back to Patch for updates to this evolving story
Most districts in Bucks County are planning a hybrid option where children will attend school a few days a week and spend the remaining days learning virtually. Several districts, including Bensalem and Council Rock, have finalized their plans for a hybrid approach.
After a six-hour meeting last week, the Council Rock School Board approved a plan that will offer families a choice of hybrid or online learning, with an online start for all students. The plan, which was the administration’s recommendation, passed on a 5 to 4 vote, after several board members unsuccessfully pushed to offer a five-day option at the elementary level. Under Council Rock’s plan, all students will be virtual until the end of September.
Bensalem this week passed its health and safety plan that opts for a hybrid approach as well. The Pennsbury School District will meet Thursday to consider a plan for a hybrid learning option.
The Neshaminy School District has not finalized its schedule, and officials there have said they will wait to make a final determination about if and how much in-person instruction will be offered. The Centennial School District continues to work on its plan, and said it expects a draft to be released by the end of July.
A few districts are offering a full, five-day schedule.
On Wednesday, the New Hope Solebury School District approved a plan that includes a full in-person reopening with the option for students to elect distance learning in the event of safety concerns.
The Central Bucks School District last week decided it would also offer an option for five days of instruction to elementary students only. Secondary students will pick from hybrid or online.
In Chester County, the Phoenixville Area School District has not yet finalized its plans. Officials have said that while the district is considering in-person instruction, it is not guaranteed that will happen in the fall. An Aug. 4 vote on the plan is expected.
The Great Valley School District is weighing four scenarios: schools open normally with a virtual option for families;a scaffolded reopening that features live instruction and distance learning; a blended option; or fully virtual. The next board meeting is Aug. 3.
At the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, the board has approved a hybrid plan that will begin virtually for at least the first three weeks of the year.
The Radnor Township School District has decided to offer an option of in-person learning on a modified schedule. It offers three phases, which include full-time and part-time learning based on the health circumstances.
The Rose Tree Media School District on Tuesday passed a plan that will include a hybrid program.
On Monday, the Springfield School District OKed its reopening plan, which features phases similar to Wolf’s red-yellow-green reopening plan for the state.
Many other districts, including Marple-Newtown, have not yet finalized their plans. The Haverford School District is expected to make a final decision on its plans Thursday. A hybrid option, as well as a full virtual plan is under consideration.
The Lower Merion School District continues to weigh three scenarios: in-person, hybrid, or remote. The board is expected to vote on a plan next week. Meanwhile, district families are planning a Thursday protest over the reopening plans.
The North Penn School District is set to vote on its plan Thursday. Multiple options are on the table, including a full in-person option, a full online option, and a hybrid option.
Over in Norristown, the local district has decided there will be no in-person schooling through at least the end of 2020. While the school district had been considering a hybrid option, they will hold online instruction only through Jan. 8, 2021. The district will consider offering an in-person option beginning Jan. 11, in addition to online learning, if health conditions improve.
The Methacton School District has said it tentatively plans to have an in-person schooling option this fall — part of a dual option plan that also offers the choice of a virtual program.
Pottstown School District administrators are leaning toward a full-time online learning option for the first semester. The district’s plan says “no mass in-person instruction” will be offered.
Students in the School District of Philadelphia could be learning totally digitally for the first marking period of the 2020-2021 school year.
The district Tuesday said it is proposing to start the school year with all students learning remotely for the first marking period, which ends Nov. 17.
A vote on the plan is expected Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on the Doylestown Patch