March 25, 2021
On Monday, March 22, 2021, the IASD Board of Directors voted to increase the amount of in-person instruction students receive in grades 7-12 from the current 2 days a week to 4 days. We will continue to have a remote day one day per week. We are moving the remote day from Wednesdays to Fridays. We are working on the details and will be sure to provide families with a variety of updates in the coming days. This change in in-person instruction (4 days per week with remote day on Fridays) will begin on the first day of the Fourth Quarter, April 6th.
These changes are in-line with the most current safety guidelines available. As many of you are aware, on Friday, March 19, 2021, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) modified its position on social distancing between students from 6 feet to 3 feet. In grades PreK-12, students will maintain social distancing to the greatest extent possible with the minimum being 3 feet in classroom settings and with universal masking still taking place. Additionally, a vast majority of staff who wanted the vaccine were able to receive one last week. Thus, a majority of the Board felt we are better positioned to increase the number of in-person instructional days to meet the needs of our students while balancing the safety of all.
While I expect the number of quarantines to increase as a result of bringing more students back into the building, we will attempt to mitigate that number to the best of our ability. One of the main reasons for making Fridays a remote day is to help mitigate possible prolonged closures due to a COVID spread. The 3-day closure will allow for contract tracing and deep cleaning to occur in accordance with the Department of Health’s recommendations. We are awaiting details from the Department of Health in regards to the impact of 3-foot social distancing in classrooms as it relates to quarantines. As of now, we have not received any updates, and we will work under the assumption that 6 feet and 15 minutes of exposure will still be one of the guiding principles DOH uses when deciding who to quarantine. Thus, even though a social distance of 3 feet is recommended between students, we are not sure about the implications of this change in regards to quarantine.
Learning Options Remain in Place for Families
I recognize that this decision will result in a vast array of emotions, thoughts, and feelings on the matter. Unfortunately, schools are placed in the middle of this global pandemic, and we are all doing the best we can as we work through these unprecedented times. In order to further support the families who want to continue to have a choice in the learning model that best suits their needs, we will continue to offer synchronous and asynchronous instruction. While we believe in-person learning is best, we will also continue to offer the hybrid model for those who wish to continue in that mode of learning. Elementary families, please contact your child's school no later than March 28th if you wish to change your child’s current learning option.
Under the new plan, the expectation will be that all grade 7-12 students under the current hybrid model will attend in-person 4 days/week. However, if you would like your student in grades 7 - 12 to remain and/or enroll in the 2 days/week hybrid model or synchronous model, please click here to complete this survey by Sunday, March 28th to request this change. If you request a change, someone from your student’s school will contact you to further discuss this request. We will consider each request on a case-by-case basis and work with families to determine the best mode of learning for their child.
- NOTE: If your request for your student to remain in the hybrid model is approved, students who were originally attending school in-person on Monday/Tuesday will continue to attend school in-person on Monday/Tuesday. Students who were attending school in-person on Thursday/Friday will now attend school in person on Wednesday/Thursday.
If you are comfortable with coming back to in-person instruction 4-days a week or are remaining 100% remote, there is no need to complete the survey. As you can imagine, there will need to be some restructuring regarding the hybrid model, and that information will come from the buildings in the next several days. The data collected from the survey will assist our schools in doing all they can to meet your needs. As previously mentioned, we will not move to 4 days of in-person instruction until April 6th. This gives the buildings time to address your needs accordingly and to the best of their ability.
Rationale and Reasoning Behind 4-day Model & April 6th Start Date
The start date of April 6th is important because it gives the District time to prepare, as well as provides the Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of Education time to communicate with the 500 school districts in the Commonwealth their updated recommendations based on the CDC changes mentioned earlier in this email. The vaccine also takes about 14 days to fully take effect, making the April 6th date the most logical start date after our staff are fully vaccinated.
I recognize that many of you are also concerned about the 4-day model in general. The 4 day in-person/1 day remote model allows us to provide our teachers with the appropriate time for planning for and communicating with our students who are participating in remote learning. We have a vast number of students in these models, and we want to make sure we are addressing their needs to the best of our ability.
Friday is the New Remote Day for Students in Grades 6-12
Making Friday a remote learning day for students in grades 6-12 is also a strategic move to embed a possible 3-day closure every week that could allow us to remain open for the remainder of the year. By building in a potential closure, we could reset our clock/active cases each week to meet the state guidelines on responding to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the least disruptive manner possible. This will also allow for contract tracing and deep cleaning to occur in accordance with the Department of Health’s recommendations on safety.
April/May at a Glance:
- Remote Fridays for students in grades 6-12: April 9, 16, 23, 30 and May 7, 21, 28.
- Friday, May 14 - Act 80 Day
Elementary, K-5: Half-day (as previously scheduled)
Secondary, 6-12: Remote Learning Day for Students
In closing, please know that our teachers, school nurses, custodians, support staff, and administrators are working incredibly hard to manage a variety of platforms, challenges, and issues to meet the needs of our students. It is amazing to be part of the Indiana Area School District and we will get through this together. My goal has, and will always be, to keep you informed to the best of my ability about our decision-making process, the challenges we face, and the rationale we used in reaching a decision - even when those decisions may be unpopular. As always, your grace, compassion, and consideration are greatly appreciated.
Mr. Michael J. Vuckovich
Superintendent of Schools