Mt. Lebanon School Board plans to vote Sept. 21 on a plan to have students attend classes in person two days a week.
During the board’s Sept. 14 discussion meeting, a consensus was reached to endorse Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer’s proposal to launch “hybrid” instruction Oct. 5.
To begin the academic year, all students have been learning remotely each weekday as part of efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. If the revised educational model is approved, they will continue to receive online instruction on days when they are not in school.
Plans call for two cohorts in each grade, with one group attending school Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other on Thursdays and Fridays. All education would be conducted virtually Wednesdays, when buildings are to receive intensive cleaning.
“It would be a phased reopening, so not everybody would show up on Oct. 5,” Steinhauer said. “We would gradually build that in so that both our students and our adults could build confidence as we move forward.”
The district has implemented changes in school buildings, including measures to promote social distancing, such as establishing directional flow in hallways. Students and staff members will be given time to become acclimated.
For students whose families prefer for them to continue to learn remotely on a full-time basis, Mt. Lebanon Cyber Academy is an option, with district teachers providing instruction.
Following the school board’s discussion meeting, a survey was sent to families asking them to indicate their choice of either the hybrid or cyber academy option. Replies were requested by Sept. 17, and Steinhauer said he would report the numbers at the Sept. 21 meeting.
“We’ll continue to work cooperatively with our unions to see if we can work out all the staffing requirements and all the labor agreements that we would have to go through,” he told the board.
In mid-August, the board voted to start the school year with fully remote instruction for nine weeks, representing the first-quarter grading period that ends Nov. 2.
“I thought that would give us the best foundation from which we could determine how to provide distance learning to all of our students, should we in the future have to pivot back and forth or should we have to close the school from time to time,” Steinhauer said.
The goal is to have students return in person five days week, if they are not attending the cyber academy. A full reopening is contingent on guidelines established at the state level with regard to the incidence of COVID-19 regionally and locally.
A school district health and safety plan outlines causes for potential school closings in the event of COVID-19 cases. For example, if five or more students and/or teachers in the same school building are afflicted within a two-week period, the plan calls for a 14-day closure.
Steinhauer complimented the efforts of staff members in preparing for the unprecedented circumstances of opening the 2020-21 school year.
“Our teachers and administrators did a fantastic job building a fully remote environment in a very short amount of time,” he said. “And I want to thank the board for giving us that opportunity, because that will serve us well wherever we go from here.”