Peters Township School District administration building

Peters Township School District’s administration building

Under normal circumstances, school administrators would have a fairly clear idea in the latter part of May regarding what to expect at the start of the next academic year, just a little over three months from now.

But with schools throughout Pennsylvania closed since mid-March because of COVID-19 and a whole lot of uncertainty about what the future holds, answering this question is going to be difficult:

What are the plans for 2020-21 instruction?

In response to that particular query by a local resident, Peters Township School District Superintendent Jeannine French provided as much information as she could, concrete and otherwise.

“What our team is doing right now is planning for every potential option,” she said during Monday’s school board meeting, conducted by videoconference and made available online the following day.

“If we are in a situation where we’ve had a resurgence and we have another stay-at-home order, we would likely be fully remote,” French added. “If we find that in our region the disease is well-contained and we have a lessening of mitigation efforts, we potentially may be back in the classroom, with just minor precautions.”

As for a third scenario, she gave another opinion.

“It’s likely we’ll be somewhere in the middle of that, where we’ll have pretty severe mitigation efforts but we’ll be allowed to have some form of in-class instruction,” French said. “And what that would look like is going to depend on the number of students that we’re allowed to have in any given classroom or any given building at the time.

“So it may look something like that we have staggered schedules, day-on, day-off schedules,” she said. “It would be a blended approach, with remote instruction and some ability for children to attend in class.”

To this point, the school district has been receiving information from governmental agencies about various pandemic-related restrictions, but it has been up to local officials to develop plans to put into place accordingly.

“For example, a restriction might come down that we cannot have more than 10 children in any one space,” French said. “And then what districts are left to do is decide how to best make that happen.”

Peters Township, of course, is in pretty much the same boat as every other nearby educational institution.

“We’re collaborating with local districts and sharing ideas about how to best run a school under those constraints,” the superintendent reported.

As August approaches, the severity of the constraints remains to be seen.

“Right now, we’re preparing for every scenario, whether that’s making sure that every family has the technology and access they need if we’re fully remote to making sure we have a learning platform that’s easily accessible to parents, and that we’re using our own curriculum,” French said. “We are going to do everything that it will take to make sure that our children get as close an experience to the classroom as possible.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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