NASD to begin transition to four-day in-person instruction March 9
In what is being called a “first step” to get back to normal, Northampton Area School District will phase in four-day, face-to-face classroom instruction in the school buildings March 9, starting with kindergarten, first- and second-grade students.
“This could be the first step for us to get back into some type of normal schedule for the rest of this school year and then, more importantly, into the fall,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said in a YouTube video chat Feb. 10.
The four-day weeks will have students in the school buildings Tuesdays through Fridays. Mondays continue to be at-home online learning days for all grades.
“Hopefully, for all of us, we’re seeing a turn here for the better in regard to the COVID situation,” Kovalchik said. “We’ve seen a little bit of a turn here in our case numbers. County numbers are down. School district numbers are down.”
According to Kovalchik, after the March 9 start for the youngest students, district administration will look at transitioning third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students.
“It could be a week after March 9, or it would be a week and a half to two weeks,” Kovalchik said. ”We want to phase in. Keep in mind, the kids haven’t been in school since last year at this particular time.”
He noted the administration decided to start with the youngest students because the data shows those students have a lesser ability to contract or spread COVID-19.
“Plus, we have small class sizes at that level, compared to the middle school and high school level,” Kovalchik said.
Parents/guardians with kindergarten, first- and second-grade students in the borough elementary schools of Siegfried and Franklin, as well as Lehigh, George Wolf and Moore elementary schools, have been asked to complete and return a form regarding the educational platforms by the end of the day Feb. 22. That deadline applies to parents/guardians who want their children to switch from the current hybrid platform to all e-learning,
“It’s critical you complete the form,” Kovalchik said in his message. “If you do not complete the form, we’re going to keep your child where he or she is now.”
Once a grade level moves to face-to-face instruction four days per week, there will not be an option for the current two-day-per-week hybrid instructional model.
Kovalchik also noted there are questions about transportation in the form.
“The district needs to determine a final count of the number of students who would be attending face-to-face instruction at least four days per week,” he said.
The building principals will be in contact with parents or guardians before March 9, it was reported.
Until further notice, the other grades continue the hybrid schedule of two days per week of face-to-face classroom instruction.
“Once a date is chosen for the next grade level(s) to move to four days per week, you will be notified,” Kovalchik said. “At the middle school, I am in constant contact with the administration, developing plans to bring back, sometime in the coming weeks, at least one grade level. And then at the high school, the same thing.”
Kovalchik noted the high school is going to be the most difficult because of the number of students and the mechanics of moving the students safely from classroom to classroom throughout the building.
“At the elementary and middle schools, it’s a little bit more self-contained, so we can control that a little bit better,” Kovalchik said. “The high school will be the last phase-in.”
Kovalchik warned parents/guardians there are factors that may cause a change in the plans during the coming weeks.
“Some variables include the number of staff available, the number of positive COVID cases in a school and changes in the federal or state health guidelines,” he said.