Administration urges reopening, union voices lingering concerns
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
By Jamie Wiggan
Sto-Rox administrators are urging movement toward full in-school reintegration but not all teachers and employees are on board.
Administrators say the prolonged absence is taking a toll on many students and is particularly harming those who already lag behind.
“It’s been shown that full-day attendance for students is necessary for their achievement,” Superintendent Frank Dalmas said during a virtual town hall meeting Feb. 2 to gauge parent and community perspectives on reopening.
“If we can start bringing kids back safely and it’s time to start bringing kids back, that’s why we’re having this discussion tonight.”
The majority of parents who spoke out during the virtual event said they backed a full return to school, citing ongoing struggles their children face with online learning.
“I think we need more structure than what is going on,” said one parent, Amber Vaughn. “This whole hybrid is not working for a lot of the kids.”
At a board meeting held two days later to discuss feedback from the virtual event, several teachers expressed concern about reopening too soon, adding that they felt out of the loop on reopening discussions.
“We have been begging for information and we keep getting shut out,” one teacher said during the meeting.
“We’ve been told over and over that we have a plan…but we don’t know what the plan is.”
Several members of transportation staff also voiced concerns about resuming regular bussing schedules while the COVID-19 virus continues to circulate.
Responding to teacher concerns, administrators outlined plans to implement social distancing procedures in the classrooms, hallways and cafeteria, and suggested in-school numbers would remain well below pre-virus average because many would opt to stay enrolled in the full-time virtual option.
Seeing a need for further discussion, Dalmas suggested the teacher’s union hold a meeting with administrators ahead of the next board meeting on Feb. 18.
“We have to learn to talk to each other,” he said.
Despite apparent expectations from teachers and some board members, the board did not take action during the Feb. 4 meeting.
School directors have not yet confirmed when the reopening plan will be put to a vote, but the board is scheduled to meet twice this month, on Feb. 18 and Feb. 25.
Since Gov. Tom Wolf’s office ordered statewide school closures in March 2020, Sto-Rox children remained out of the classroom until October, when they phased into a half-day rotating schedule. Following an uptick in cases late November, the school pivoted back to all-virtual learning throughout December before resuming the hybrid model in January.