After much discussion and planning, Burrell School District has created a Health and Safety Plan for the upcoming 2020-2021 year.
The plan consists of three options families and students can choose from before the school year begins.
Option A offers face-to-face instruction in school. During the day, students will need to wear a face covering, and traffic flow in the hallways will be directional when possible.
Option B provides synchronous instruction that students can participate in from home. Students will participate in the same classes with the same teachers as their peers.
In both these options, students will use Google Classroom for all assignments and assessments to minimize contact with others.
While families can move their children between these options for the first two months of the year due to heat or sicknesses, they are expected to stick with one choice. A hybrid option is not something the district expects to implement.
Option C is enrollment in Burrell eAcademy, which provides flexible online learning for students who may not be able to participate in live instruction. Students will have teachers from various schools in Westmoreland County, Burrell included.
As long as Pennsylvania is in the yellow and green phase, students will be able to choose between all three options. If the state enters the red phrase, only Options B and C will be available.
To facilitate all three options, the district has ordered a Chromebook for each student
“We are trying to meet everybody’s needs without creating constraints that cost families more money,” said Dr. Shannon Wagner, Superintendent, Burrell School District. “We are giving them a choice and allowing them to do what’s best for them without confining them to a specific schedule.”
Dr. Wagner noted that this year’s setup is different than the remote learning offered at the end of last year.
“[That] was our quick pivot to allow us to create a plan to do instruction for our kids,” Dr. Wagner said. “Starting this year, it’s got to be more of an investment.”
The new plan relied on input from the administrative team, teachers, board members, and parents.
The main difference is interaction; even if students stay home, they will now be able to collaborate with peers via Google Chat, ask questions during class with Google Meet, and even work on projects with classmates through Google Docs or Slides.
One of the goals of the plan is to decrease social isolation, which can make it difficult for the district to identify and address potential mental health issues, such as food insecurity, depression, and suicide ideation, in students.
While the flexibility of the new plan is good for students, Dr. Wagner realizes she is asking teachers to go above and beyond their typical responsibilities. However, she hopes they will grow professionally and be able to look back with pride at the end of the year.
“This is going to be a journey for us, certainly,” said Dr. Wagner.