BLOSSBURG — The Southern Tioga School District is looking at what the 2020-21 school year will look like.
The district has to submit a health and safety plan, which will serve as the local guidelines for all instructional and non-instructional school reopening activities, to the board for approval and to the state, Superintendent Sam Rotella said. The board has four options to reopen for students during the June 10 business meeting: a total reopen, scaffolding reopening, blended reopening and total remote learning. The district is sending a survey to the community for their input to determine which option people are most comfortable with.
A total reopen for all students and staff would allow for some students and families to opt out for distance learning due to a safety or health concern. Scaffolded would have some students in in-person learning, while some are distance learning. Blended balances in-person learning and remote learning for all students. Remote learning for all students would have future steps to be taken and conditions that would prompt the decision as to when the district will reopen.
Rotella said scaffolding would be difficult, but blended was a possibility. Currently, a total reopen isn’t feasible with the current information and knowledge the district has. The plan will be built so the district can seamlessly move in and out of phases, like yellow and green, and so things can continue to move if one building or classroom has to be shut down, he said.
The biggest variable and piece to figure out, Rotella said, is social distancing. That starts with transportation. If students need to social distance on the bus, it would most likely prohibit the district from having each student in the building each day, he said.
Social distancing in the classroom is also a challenge, as there isn’t enough room to spread everyone out, Rotella said, including when people are walking in hallways and during lunch.
There could also be added expenses to comply with any guidelines that might be in place, such as wiping down classrooms between each session, sanitizing every piece of equipment touched and purchasing hand sanitizer.
Board member Jim Nobles, who is also the president and CEO of Laurel Health Centers, said the district needed to be prepared for asymptomatic carriers in the school.
“From the health perspective, that’s one of the things we’re looking at very closely. And we do know that schools inherently are very infectious. We see kids and they sneeze on the desk or whatever and the next kid comes in and, you know, they get colds. So that’s something I think we’ll have to be prepared for,” Nobles said.
Based on staffing, it wouldn’t take a lot to shut schools within the district down. For example, if 10 busses are running in the Liberty area and six bus drivers are in quarantine, that could easily shut a building down, Rotella said.
Rotella said his aggressive goal is to have a health and safety plan for the board to vote on for the July meeting, but said it was more likely going to be ready for the August meeting, unless a special meeting is called.