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East Allegheny School Board will delay the district's transition from remote to hybrid learning until Dec. 7.
Superintendent Alan Johnson recommended the extension in light of the current spike in COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County and to allow for “quarantine time” between the Thanksgiving holiday and the school reopening in the middle of the second nine weeks.
EA’s first nine-week grading period came to a close on Oct. 28.
Allegheny County remains in the moderate range, less than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, which allows for either hybrid or remote learning.
“I'd like to go that 30 days and see if it doesn't level out and then hopefully start to decline,” Johnson said at the board’s special meeting held Oct. 26. “Some districts have officially adopted the policy that they want to see two weeks worth of daily declines that can be maintained before they bring their kids back. And while we haven't adopted that, I think informally that is not a bad model.”
Johnson has said the district does not have the staff to accommodate a large number of teachers in quarantine at one time.
The delay also allows teachers and staff to prepare to bring in close to 1,000 students — divided into two groups — into the elementary school and high school each week. There will be a blue cohort in the buildings on Mondays and Tuesdays and a gold cohort on Thursdays and Fridays.
Wednesdays will be deep cleaning days in the district and a remote learning day for all students.
There are close to 500 students who have opted to remain in full-time remote learning which means the teachers will have students both in person and online when the hybrid model is implemented. The elementary school will have an early dismissal to allow for students to complete their special classes like gym, art, library and music at home.
In the past two weeks, a shipment of 800 Chromebooks was received which brings the district very close to their goal of having one device per student, district officials said. One more delivery of devices is expected soon which will fill the gap.
Since the beginning of the school year, there are about 100 students, with individualized education plans, that have been coming into the schools for in person instruction during the week. Johnson says there have been fewer than 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases (among students and staff) within the East Allegheny School District. The plan is to start posting those numbers on the district’s website, officials said.
Johnson says there will be a clear cleaning plan that will also be made available to families and steps will be taken to keep class transitions within the hallways as socially distant as possible.
“We’re making sure we have all the things in place we need to keep the buildings as safe as we possibly can,” said Johnson, who hopes that as the district transitions into the hybrid model, the remote families stay as engaged as possible.
“You made a decision to stay home — fine,” he said. “We support that and we’re not going to forget your child.”
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 November 02, 2020.