By Jamie Wiggan
Cornell students will follow a half-day rotating schedule when they return to school this fall, according to a plan passed by the board of directors Aug. 10.
Administrators said they believe the hybrid approach offers the best available balance between student safety and quality of education. Students will attend either a morning or afternoon session each day, which will be supplemented by remote learning.
“By doing the half-day rotation and really going at the 50% capacity we are going to be able to adhere to the six-foot rule,” said Superintendent Aaron Thomas. “…It gets the kids here every day and it eliminates some of the issues we had in the spring with the online learning.”
The vote passed 7-2, with directors Caryn Code and Linda Solecki opposing.
The plan is based on a template provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), which all schools are required to complete and submit before the term begins.
The PDE has issued broad guidelines for how schools should reopen safely this year, but it leaves each district in charge of implementing its own particularized plan. Schools throughout the region have adopted a variety of reopening strategies ranging from full in-class participation to remote-only learning.
In addition to limiting building occupancy by staggering attendance, Cornell’s plan also requires students wear a mask at all times outside of designated intervals, and stipulates regular cleaning procedures between the morning and afternoon sessions.
The plan does not specifically outline how students will be grouped into morning and afternoon schedules, but a question and answer form published on the district’s website indicates school officials will try to accommodate family preferences when possible.
The plan also includes a fully virtual option for families uncomfortable with returning their children to the classroom.
“I think it’s important that we give those options for those that don’t feel 100% comfortable,” said Thomas. “It’s gonna be a unique school year. We’re gonna make it work the best we can and I think we will make it work.
The directors also approved a motion to postpone the beginning of semester by six days to give time for the necessary adjustments. The new start date will be Sept. 8.