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Sept. 22, 2020, Update on Reopening from Supt. Copeland
Sept. 22, 2020, Update on Reopening from Supt. Copeland

At last night's meeting of the Lower Merion Board of School Directors, I presented my recommendation for a model to return more of our students to in-person instruction in our buildings in the coming weeks. The Board approved this proposal as part of an amendment to the District Health and Safety Plan. That plan was also amended to require that all students and staff wear face masks, rather than face shields or gaiters, when in District buildings or vehicles.

As always, this plan could change if the positivity and incidence rates and trends for our community start to move upwards. Throughout this school year, it remains possible, if not likely, that we will move between fully remote and hybrid instruction multiple times. As a reminder, a hybrid model is necessary because our buildings do not have the capacity for all students and staff to be in school at the same time while maintaining the recommended safe physical distance.

Keeping that in mind, but knowing that a safe return to in-person instruction is our goal, we will be implementing a dual hybrid plan:

  • For elementary students, the schedule will be based on morning and afternoon cohorts for in-person instruction.
  • For middle school and high school, the cohorts will alternate full days of in-person instruction.

In both models, all students (with the exception of Kindergarten and some special education and ELD students) will remain at home on Fridays and participate in blended synchronous and asynchronous instruction. This will give staff time to engage in dual lesson planning, professional development and necessary meetings.

As mentioned in my last update, the planned dates for return are:

Week of September 29 (no school on 9/28):

All Kindergarten students,

  • Assigned AM or PM classes with additional support staff to facilitate de-densification of classrooms where necessary
  • Elementary principals will follow up with building-specific details

Week of October 5:

Next group of special education students

Grades 1-3 in their assigned hybrid cohorts

Week of October 12:

Grades 4-5 in their assigned hybrid cohorts

Week of October 19:

Grades 6-12 in their assigned hybrid cohorts

Proposed sample schedules for elementary, middle school and high school students are available in the presentation from the meeting. You will note that when grades return to in-person instruction, they will return to their schools' regular bell schedules. The exception to this will be the elementary school afternoon cohort. Their day will end 15 minutes later than in years past, to maximize in-person instructional time for each cohort and to allow enough time for transportation and for cleaning between the morning and afternoon cohorts.

The bell schedules for in-person instruction will be:

  • Elementary 9:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. OR 1:00 p.m. to 3:50 p.m.
  • Middle 8:15 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.
  • High School 7:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.

We plan to share students' cohort assignments with families later this week. Families will also be receiving a survey regarding transportation usage. Please respond as quickly as possible once you receive the survey so that our Transportation Department can take that information into consideration as they develop routes. Students' bus information will be shared by level in PowerSchool prior to their return to in-person instruction.

In the coming weeks, you will also receive information from principals regarding information sessions (via Zoom) about the transition to hybrid in-person instruction.

Thank you to the many parents/guardians and staff members who have shared their feedback throughout this planning process. We know that this year is requiring a level of patience, resilience and adaptability that is beyond what any of us have experienced in years past. And we may face additional challenges in the months ahead. Still, we will strive to continue to provide our students with the best education possible.

Sincerely,

Robert Copeland
Superintendent