Northampton Press

Monday, May 25, 2020

NASD seeks parent input for 2020-21 school year

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in School

Survey asks for preference of instruction method to better inform the district’s decision

Northampton Area School District administration is considering options for the 2020-21 school year. In preparation, the district is interested in hearing from parents and guardians concerning how classes may unfold this fall.

In a May 19 video chat and email, NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik told parents and guardians of incoming students for the 2020-21 school year about a survey the district is using to help determine the shape of education in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline to answer the survey is May 29.

“We’re just trying to get an understanding of how many students would remain online and how many students we can expect to come into the physical structure,” Kovalchik said in a phone interview following the May 18 NASD Board of Education meeting.

Kovalchik said the survey will provide guidance for the administration in planning for the fall start of NASD classes, scheduled for Aug. 31. Teacher in-service days are scheduled for Aug. 24-27.

Results of the survey, which may contain three or four questions and an area for comments, will help determine the physical structural needs of district buildings, online learning, amount of resources needed and staffing.

“We’re not guaranteeing any placement for next year. The purpose is to collect data,” Kovalchik said. “This (the survey results) doesn’t guarantee anything.”

Pennsylvania’s three-tiered reopening plan promulgated by Gov. Tom Wolf divides the state into red, yellow and green zones.

Information about the process to reopen Pennsylvania was updated May 12, which includes details about each phase. See more at governor.pa.gov/process-to-reopen-pennsylvania.

“The green phase is expected to allow opening with limited restrictions,” Kovalchik said. “If we’re in red or yellow, we may have parents who want to keep their children home.”

Northampton County is currently still in the red phase. Whichever phase the county is in when schools reopen will determine the way classes are taught, schools are run and how students are educated. Lehigh County is also in the red phase.

There are 5,500 students in NASD and 1,500 students in Northampton Area High School.

“With social distancing, right now, you have to be 6 feet apart. If you have classrooms of a certain square footage, you have to figure out how many students you can have in each classroom,” Kovalchik said.

At the high school, utilizing the gymnasium and the cafeteria as teaching spaces might be an option.

The teaching of certain classes, such as physical education, music and art, is being evaluated because of social distancing guidelines.

The NASD survey will ask what grade the student will be in for the 2020-21 school year and what the parents’ or guardians’ preferences are concerning the mode of education for the students.

The survey choices are expected to include three modes of education that have been outlined for NASD (and other school districts) for the fall:

• Physical in-person classroom instruction

• A blend of in-person and online instruction

• Online instruction

Chromebooks were issued to students March 13, the last day of in-person instruction in NASD. Long-distance learning was implemented March 30.

Guidance from Pennsylvania concerning the 2020-21 school year is expected the first week of June.

The last day of student learning for the 2019-20 NASD school year is May 22. It was to have been June 4.

Typically, the final days of a school year are half-days of instruction. The Memorial Day holiday is May 25.

Student make-up days are May 26-29 for students whose online learning may have been challenged by family, health or technology problems.

“We want to make sure we give [students] all the time to do the work,” Kovalchik told the board at the May 18 meeting.

Staff development is June 2, 3 and 4.

Whatever format is chosen for education in the fall at NASD, guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania Department of Education and the governor’s office will be followed.

“We’ll take direction from the state and the CDC,” Kovalchik said.