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Students will be split into two cohorts for in-person classes
East Allegheny School District will begin hybrid learning in the district Jan. 25.
School directors this week voted 5-4 to resume some in-person classes. The district has been fully remote since Dec. 1 based on a recommendation from the state Department of Dealth when the state’s COVID-19 daily case count reached 6,000.
Prior to that, both the high school and elementary school were operating within a scaffolded learning model accommodating students with individualized education plans (IEP's) in person.
Current data indicates Allegheny County remains in the “substantial” category for COVID-19 incident rates and test positivity, and the state Department of Health has recommended middle/high schools in that category remain remote.
But new guidance from the department, released on Jan. 7, encourages schools to bring back elementary age students even if their county is in the substantial range. Research has so far indicated kids under the age of 14 have less risk of contracting the virus.
Many parents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting expressing both sides of the debate.
Maria Zarod, an EA teacher and representative for the East Allegheny Education Association said, “I’d advocate to stay the course until Covid-19 rates show a declining trend instead, keeping our students healthy and keeping our students learning without interruption.”
Due to EA’s small number of staff and lack of substitute teachers, district officials are concerned that if multiple staff members go into quarantine, in-person education will be disrupted.
But the majority of the school board members felt students would be better served with a blend of in-person and virtual learning instead of utilizing a mostly remote platform.
“I don’t want any more delay on at least offering a hybrid option,” said board member Alan Eichler.
Teachers and staff are preparing to bring in close to 1,000 students — divided into two groups — at both district buildings.
There will be a blue cohort in the buildings on Mondays and Tuesdays and a gold cohort on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday will be a deep cleaning day in the district and a remote learning day for all students.
The elementary school will have an early dismissal to allow students to complete their special classes like gym, art, library and music at home.
At the moment, there are close to 500 students who have opted to remain in full-time remote learning, district officials 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 email@example.com.
Originally published January 15, 2021.