Pottsgrove Moving Ahead with Virtual Academy Only

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – The hybrid live-and-online option proposed for the Pottsgrove School District’s return to education in the 2020-2021 academic year came off the table Tuesday night (Aug. 4, 2020) in a school board vote. As of Wednesday (Aug. 5) district administrators were already more focused upon online teaching through the Pottsgrove Virtual Academy, the only remaining choice.

The virtual academy “will differ greatly” from remote learning that occurred throughout Spring 2020, district Superintendent Dr. William Shirk promised in a letter circulated Wednesday. He reported:

  • “Students will be required to attend classes and complete assignments, similar to what would occur while in a school building;”
  • The district is “creating consistent practices to allow for greater flexibility, so that some tasks are provided and completed in real time, and others are done at the student’s convenience; and
  • Kindergarten through fifth grade “students now have access to Schoology, a platform (intended) to strengthen instruction in a remote setting.”

Over the course of the next week, Shirk wrote, the district expects to “provide additional communication to families that will include sample daily schedules, available supports, and other necessary information.”

The board’s 5-3 decision – board directors Patti Grimm, Bill Parker, Jim Lapic, Ashley Custer, and Dr. Charles Nippert favored virtual; directors Robert Lindgren, Al Leach, and Tina McIntyre supported the hybrid model; and the seat of former director Scott Hutt was vacant – followed “multiple conversations during a time we continually received changing, and sometimes inconsistent, guidance from local, state, and federal advisories,” Shirk noted.

Comments from social media observers about the vote, primarily on Facebook but in other venues too, generally fell into one of three categories. Some were happy with and relieved by the decision, usually citing health risk considerations. Some were angered and frustrated by it, often because they preferred a partial or full in-person return to buildings over remote. Some were simply resigned to the choice, and sought to move ahead to ensure continuity.

Within district households that contain two wage-earners with school-age children, several commenters lamented the most daunting question facing them was how to juggle their employers’ expectations with the need to care for students during days in online classes.

While Shirk’s letter did not tackle that issue. It did, however, again address other questions posed by parents. The virtual academy, he said:

  • Will follow a regular daily schedule on a six-day cycle. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday will offer live-streamed, synchronous instruction “to the greatest extent possible,” although asynchronous work may occur on those days;
  • All students will receive district-supplied devices for remote learning, if they don’t already have them;
  • Wednesday will be an asynchronous day and will not be counted within the six-day cycle;
  • Student tutoring will be available;
  • Flexibility will be offered so that students can complete some of the work outside of school hours;
  • Advanced Placement, honors, and dual-enrollment courses will be offered and occur as scheduled. AP and dual-enrollment courses will be taught by teachers who have taught this before and are fully certified and trained in the program;
  • All special education and gifted education services will be provided; and
  • The board-approved school calendar and all associated days remain as is.

Photo by Arif Riyanto via Unsplash, used under license