Pottsgrove Preparing for April 6 Hybrid Expansion

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Assurance testing for coronavirus infections among staff and employees in the Pottsgrove School District has entered its second week with “more efficiency,” Superintendent Dr. William Shirk Jr. reported Tuesday (March 9, 2021) to its school board, as the district prepares to expand its hybrid education program to four days in-classroom and one day online beginning April 6.

Pottsgrove is still waiting to hear from a substantial percentage of its families, Shirk said, on whether they will opt for the hybrid program or a five-days virtual one. The deadline to respond is Friday (March 12). Of survey responses received from families so far, however, overwhelming numbers in the elementary schools have indicated they prefer getting learners back into buildings.

Eighty-three percent of respondent families whose students attend Lower Pottsgrove Elementary, 86 percent at Ringing Rocks, and more than 90 percent at West Pottsgrove claim they’re ready to have children in front of teachers in a classroom setting, according to Shirk.

To make that possible, the Board of School Directors during its Tuesday night meeting unanimously approved revisions to its phased school reopening health and safety plan. It’s the document – required by Pennsylvania’s Education Department, and the state and Montgomery County health departments – the regulates how and under what conditions students can return to live classes.

The revisions in part emphasize that six-foot social distancing between students is preferred, and required for student-to-staff and staff-to-staff interactions, in cafeterias, and in band and chorus rooms. The changes, however, also allow classroom distancing “flexibility” of between 3 and 6 feet for students so more learners can safely fit into Pottsgrove’s smaller-sized spaces.

Physical guides and floor markers will designate where and how students and staff must be suitably distanced to talk, collaborate, or work on assignments.

Additionally, thanks to state orders, school employees this week will begin receiving coronavirus vaccines manufactured by Johnson and Johnson. “By the end of the month,” Shirk hopefully predicted, “everybody will have at least one shot in the arm.” Vaccine availability and administration, combined with assurance testing that seeks to assure all employees that their colleagues are infection-free, “really sets us up for success” in the proposed April 6 expansion, the superintendent claimed.

Currently, no school employees have tested positive for coronavirus, Shirk noted.

“I really feel good about where we’ve gone, and what we’re doing,” he told school directors and their virtual meeting audience. “I’m very, very positive about what we’ve seen,” Shirk added, and acknowledged all employees and administrators have played important roles in the district’s progress. “It’s a total team effort,” he said.

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