'Happy to be back' Mars Area reports 'successful' first day

September 16, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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Mark Rodgers, band director at Mars Middle School, directs students as they enter the building for the first day of school.

Mars Area School Board met virtually Sept. 8 following the first day of school for students.

“I think we had a very good, successful first day of school,” said Mark Gross, superintendent. “I think everybody was just so happy to (be) back in session.”

Gross said like any first day, there were “hiccups.” But he said teachers and staff didn't report any major issues, particularly with technology used for the livestream interactive (LSI) learning.

Students exit the bus one at a time as they arrive Sept. 8 at Mars Middle School for the first day of school.

“For the most part, our technology was working just fine,” Gross said.

Elementary parent Nickie Kredel said her son is attending through livestream interactive learning.

“The morning was surprisingly super smooth,” Kredel said.

Kredel said in the afternoon, her son's device had trouble with audio and screening. Kredel, who said she sat with her son all day while he attended class, asked if the district was aware of the issue and knew how to resolve it.

“I know today's the first day and we all need to be patient,” Kredel said. “I was just wondering what the overall plan of attack was.”

After conferring with a district IT official, Gross told Kredel some of the LSI technology had a problematic setting that was corrected during the day.

“Hopefully, your issues have resolved,” Gross said. “We will have tech officials in every building.”

Dayle Ferguson, school board member, reminded district families that the district has a technology help desk that's available 24-7. She asked the district to post the help desk contact information in a prominent spot on the website.

Gross said he and other administrators visited classes throughout the day. Gross reminded the board that the district requires masking in accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Gov. Tom Wolf's mandates.

He said while walking through school, he didn't encounter any issues with students wearing masks. Students arrived at school prepared and followed face covering procedures during the day.

“That just tells you what type of parents and students we have,” Gross said.

Gross said one area the district will be working to improve is pick-up and drop-off for students. Today's efforts weren't as smooth as officials had wanted, according to Gross.

Gross said the district will wait a few days to see if traffic patterns correct themselves. If not, he said the district will make adjustments. Mars is working with Adams Township police to monitor vehicles.

Overall, Gross said the first today of school went well for students, faculty and staff. Kredel said her son's teacher was “amazing” and did a good job using LSI technology on the first day of school.

“I think it's only going to get better,” Gross said. “(Today) superseded my expectations.”

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Samantha Beal

Samantha Beal