Supt. Copeland shares an update on the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
Update on Reopening
August 20, 2020
Dear LMSD Families,
I hope you are enjoying these final weeks of summer. Our District and building administrative teams are continuing our ongoing work in preparation for the first day of school on September 8, 2020. This will be an unusual school year, but we are continuing to strive to provide all of our students, whether they are learning virtually or in our classrooms, with a full year of safe, high-quality educational and social-emotional growth. As a reminder, all students will start the year with remote learning, through at least Oct. 5, 2020.
Class and teacher assignments are now being made, since we have closed the enrollment periods for our two virtual options, LMSD@Home and LMVA. As of today, we have approximately 1175 students enrolled in LMSD@Home and approximately 400 enrolled in LMVA. Students who have not selected one of these fully remote options will be assigned to a teacher/schedule/classroom in their home school and will transition to in-person instruction, if/when that occurs, with their assigned teacher(s) and classmates. Building principals will share class assignments and schedules in late August, as usual.
As stated in my last update, the earliest our District will consider beginning our transition toward in-person instruction in our buildings is October 5, 2020. In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to consult with Dr. David Rubin of the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and to join other superintendents from Southeastern Pennsylvania for a webinar with Dr. Rubin, Dr. Susan Coffin of CHOP and Dr. Mark Ingerman of Main Line Health.
Today, PolicyLab issued new guidance on school reopenings, which we will use to guide us as we consider our next steps. We will review COVID-19 data for Montgomery County and the surrounding communities in Delaware and Philadelphia counties (since many of our staff and families of our students live and work in these areas) at least every two weeks. When the data approaches the guideposts and metrics established by PolicyLab, we will consult with them, the Montgomery County Office of Public Health (MCPOH) and our other resources in the community, to make reopening recommendations.
Our decision to postpone the return of students until at least October 5 is in alignment with the PolicyLab recommendations for a gradual reentry for students, no sooner than the first week of October, due to an expected spike in cases after the Labor Day weekend.
The chart below provides a brief summary of PolicyLab's most current guidance:
Stable/declining weekly case incidence
Open for hybrid or full in-person instruction
Stable/declining weekly case incidence
Consider incremental reopening for
Stable weekly case incidence AND 5%-9% positivity
Existing in-person instruction can continue
Greater than 9% Positivity Rate
Virtual instruction only
In addition to this guidance, the Administration will consider the availability and efficiency of quick-turnaround testing and of contact-tracing, along with the supply of PPE on hand for District personnel. We were pleased to learn late last week that MCOPH has contracted with a new testing company that is promising results in 36 hours and is hiring additional staff to directly support schools. These changes are expected to occur by September 1, 2020.
When we do move toward in-person instruction, we will do so in accordance with the precautions detailed in the Board-approved Health and Safety Plan. Also, as I stated in my previous update, we plan to prioritize the return of students with needs that are difficult to meet virtually. This may include special education students with extensive needs, ELL students and our youngest learners.
It is important to point out that the pathway to in-person instruction may not be a straight line, and that a return to virtual instruction will continue to be a possibility, as the COVID-19 numbers may improve and decline at any time.
We know that challenges remain ahead of us. But we are confident that with the support of our LMSD Families and our dedicated staff, we will be able to serve the needs of our children during the upcoming year.