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More details have been released regarding the school start plan for East Allegheny School District.
At this week’s school board meeting, Superintendent Alan Johnson clarified the wording of the health and safety plan that was approved by EA directors on July 31.
The majority of students are expected to start the year remotely, but the wording has been changed to more accurately depict how EA’s education plan will be executed for the first nine weeks.
“We have a sizable number, not a majority, but a good number of students who will require some face to face instruction,” Johnson said. “These are students that have learning disabilities who really would probably not do well in a remote learning environment, so we are making arrangements that they can come into the school.”
Johnson said the district is implementing a so-called scaffolded instruction model.
Scaffolding is when teachers use temporary tools or supports — “scaffolds” — to help students understand a new task or concept. As the students master each concept, the teacher gradually removes the scaffolds.
Johnson said the district is choosing that model in light of new recommendations released on Aug. 10 by the state departments of health and education regarding how Pre-K through grade 12 schools should operate moving forward.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website, the recommendations “rely on two standard public health metrics: incidence rate and the percent positivity of diagnostic testing. These metrics are available for every county in Pennsylvania.”
Based on current data, Johnson said, transmission in Allegheny County remains in the moderate zone, with an incident rate of between 10 to 100 cases per 100,000 people. Under those conditions, he said, either a blended learning or fully remote model is recommended.
EA’s instructional model will be posted on the district’s website eawildcats.net under “Reopening: Frequently Asked Questions.”
Johnson encouraged parents to visit the district website often as information will continue to be updated.
There is still a shortage of laptops and tablets for the start of school year on Aug. 31, he said, due to the national demand for them.
The district’s goal, for now, is providing one device per family, Johnson said.
“If you are in a position to provide the technology — if you have a laptop, or if you have a desktop computer for your children to use in our remote learning environment, that would be a great way to partner with the district so that we can make sure that families and individual students, that don’t have access to these devices, will be able to get the full experience of our remote learning program we have planned,” he said.
The district will soon receive two payments of $28,657.47 from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The stimulus money will help cover the cost of additional trauma-based intervention specialists, Johnson said.
The services of both Turtle Creek Valley Mental Health (for grades 7-12) and Auberle Behavioral Health (grades K-6) will be utilized for the upcoming year. Specialists will provide training for staff to help them identify student behaviors that can be attributed to trauma.
The specialists also will help identify students and families who are not engaging with the online learning and see what assistance might be needed, Johnson said.
Kristen Keleschenyi is a freelance writer in North Versailles Twp. and one of the hosts of the Kristen & Amber Show on WMCK Internet Radio at 5 p.m. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published August 13, 2020.