By Jamie Wiggan
Hopeful of bringing the majority of children back into the classroom this fall, Sto-Rox officials are still ironing out details for reopening the district amid a constantly evolving COVID-19 outlook.
The district has not as yet submitted an official health and safety plan — required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) before reopening — but officials have been busy discussing new measures during recent board meetings.
“We’ve been thinking about this every day since March,” said Superintendent Frank Dalmas. “…We’re gonna be working up until the very last week of school.”
Currently, school officials expect to reopen the district in late August but they are also developing a permanent cyber option for those uncomfortable returning to the classroom.
Survey results indicate about 63% of responding parents favor returning their children to school over online and hybrid options, according to Michael Amick, district curriculum director.
Parents are now being asked to commit to one of the two options through an online form.
During an agenda review meeting July 16, Amick and Dayna Sikora, director of pupil services, presented guidelines on several of the categories contained in the PDE’s reopening plan template.
Amick and Sikora discussed dining and hygiene procedures and outlined strategies for training staff in the new regulations and communicating them to students.
According to their presentation, students will be required to wear masks when moving between school locations, but will be allowed to remove them once seated in the classroom as long as they maintain the required 6 ft. of separation from other students and teachers.
Student meals will all be served in “grab and go” format to reduce human contact and interaction.
Floor markings will be placed to keep students appropriately distanced while waiting in line for food, and they will be staggered across different groups and directed to different dining locations.
The district is busy stockpiling necessary cleaning resources and masks for any student unable to bring their own.
To keep parents and students apprised of all new policies and procedures, the district is developing a web page with links to relevant forms and documents.
Educators said more guidelines will be presented to the board at next week’s business meeting, but they do not expect to present a final reopening plan until August.
Bussing presents a particular challenge to social distancing requirements, according to administrators, who said the district has not yet finalized an approach for safe transportation.
“We’ve tried to think of every component of the bussing but it’s very hard,” said Sam Weaver, assistant high school principal.
Weaver suggested walking might be an option for some high school students but not for students of the primary center and middle school, both based outside the boundaries of the district in Kennedy.
Business Manager Kim Puskarich said she is hopeful an upcoming meeting scheduled with ABC Transport will move the discussion forward.