A preliminary plan for how Peters Township School District will open the 2020-21 academic year should be ready to present to the school board by the end of July, according to Superintendent Jeannine French.
During Monday’s board meeting, she provided an update about the work administrators have done pertaining to the eventual reopening of schools, which closed statewide after March 13 because of COVID-19.
“One of the challenges we’re seeing is that this is a very evolving situation, and guidance evolves every day,” she told the board, “and as new information is received from the state Department of Health and other agencies, it will be incorporated as part of the district’s plan.”
A major factor in how the start of the school year proceeds is navigating the “tension that is occurring in terms of what is the best way to open schools,” French said. “It’s balancing kind of the educational imperative to have our children back and a public health imperative to stop the spread of disease.”
Also complicating the matter, she said, are COVID-19 research studies that report differing conclusions.
“What we have to be cautious about is making sure that we’re looking at the totality of those research studies and making sure that the studies have been peer-reviewed, they have sample sizes of over a thousand, that they’ve been focused on children, and who’s supporting the research,” she said.
Examples she cited include studies of the likelihood of children becoming symptomatic when exposed to the coronavirus, and whether the viral load, the amount of a specific virus in a test sample taken from a patient, is lesser in youngsters compared with adults.
In that type of context, French said, the district faces a particular challenge.
“We have to engage in efforts that we know are going to mitigate the spread of the disease, because, as a school, we want our children here in the classroom. But if we’re contributing to the spread of disease, we are going to become a public health crisis and we will be forced to shut down,” she said.
The goal is to open the school year in a manner similar to what typically occurs.
“What we’re doing right now is looking at all the mitigation efforts that we can implement, so that we’re able to balance public health with education, in terms of what we know is best for our children,” French said. “We know our children are best in our classrooms.”
According to the district calendar, Peters Township students are scheduled to return Aug. 19.