Seneca Valley mulls options for return to school in fall

Steering panel discusses topics

June 26, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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With the Pennsylvania Department of Education issuing its guidance for a fall return to school, districts in the county are making plans to abide by that guidance.

The Seneca Valley School District — which held a special meeting Thursday on the return of athletics — has held five meetings to date, discussing topics varying from general and special education to cleaning and information technology.

The minutes from those meetings indicate a significant amount of consideration on a number of possibilities, not just considering that Butler County is currently in the state's green phase of reopening. The meetings, under the district's Return to School Steering Committee, were held virtually and included teachers, administrators and parents.

No solid decisions have been made yet — those would need board approval — but options for returning to school, including split schedules and plexiglass barriers, have been discussed.

Following social distancing, which Superintendent Tracy Vitale said the education department noted was to be used “when feasible” and not necessarily required, could necessitate the district to follow half-day or six-day schedules, during which students attend days or parts of days based on their last name; a cohort schedule, whereby students attend Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, depending on their last name, with schools closed for cleaning Wednesday; or a one-week brick-and-mortar and one-week remote learning option.

Special education presents unique challenges too, the minutes indicate, as speech therapists will likely be unable to effectively teach if they must wear masks. Additionally, the meeting members noted, providing students with emotional support might be significantly more difficult if teaching is done remotely. The district is one of the few in the county where nearly all students had access to both a computer and internet, the minutes show, and the district has provided all students with laptops and broadband hot spots for families in need, something they see as conducive to a remote-learning environment.

The steering committee has two more meetings planned to discuss, among other topics, signs of illness, cafeteria procedures, staffing and transportation.

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Alex J. Weidenhof

Alex J. Weidenhof