Additional NASD students will return to school
The list of grades returning to four-day, in-person classes in Northampton Area School District is expanding March 23.
Elementary school students in third through fifth grades and Northampton Area Middle School sixth-grade students are next scheduled to return, NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik reported March 1.
Elementary school students in kindergarten through second grade are returning March 9, it was previously announced.
The return to four-day, in-person classes for the remainder of the students has not yet been announced.
“The district survey results regarding returning to a four-day school schedule have been collected, and plans for a return of students for four-days-a-week, face-to-face instruction before the end of the 2020-21 school year are underway,” Kovalchik said.
Mondays continue as at-home online learning days, with students in the schools Tuesdays through Fridays.
Kovalchik shared the expectations for in-person instruction.
Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings, except when eating lunch or when directed by staff for a face-covering break. Kovalchik asked that face coverings with vents be avoided. He said teachers will have face coverings available.
Students will not be closer than 4 feet from each other in the classroom and will remain 6 feet apart during lunch and mask breaks, it was reported. Students will continue to have breaks to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.
For bus transportation, there may be instances of two students per seat depending upon the number of students returning. The schedule for elementary students is 8:45-9:15 a.m. for arrival and 3:15-3:35 p.m. for student dismissal. The schedule for middle and high school students is 7:09-7:55 a.m. for arrival and 1:44-2:05 p.m. for dismissal.
Transportation schedules for pickup and drop-off times will remain the same Tuesdays through Fridays as with the two-day-per-week schedule. Buses will be cleaned between bus runs. No transportation will be provided Mondays.
The daily time schedule for eLearning students is unchanged.
“As in the past, we will continue to investigate and report all positive COVID cases,” Kovalchik said. “If it becomes necessary to close a school due to the number of positive cases reaching the state limits or because of lack of staff due to positive COVID cases, parents and guardians will be notified.”
Kovalchik said 70 percent of parents and guardians want their children to return to face-to-face instruction, and 30 percent want their children to remain in eLearning or Northampton Area School District Cyber Academy, based on the most recent survey.
“We’ll take a look at seventh grade and eighth grade, as we get into April, along with our high school students,” Kovalchik said.
In other business, the Class of 2021 graduation ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 4, with possible rain dates of 7 p.m. June 5 and 6, at Al Erdosy Stadium, Northampton.
The graduation won’t be at Stabler Arena because Lehigh University officials have closed the campus to outside events this spring.
“We’re not sure how many visitors and guests we can have in the stadium at this particular time,” Kovalchik said. “We will hold graduation to allowable capacities.”
It was also reported Keystone exams and PSSA tests may be postponed. Pennsylvania Acting Education Secretary Noe Ortega announced Feb. 27 “the department submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, confirming that Pennsylvania will allow public schools the option to postpone federally required academic achievement and English learner proficiency tests until the fall,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.
“Districts are required to administer PSSA tests this year,” Kovalchik said Feb. 27. “Not sure how valid that is with all that has occurred this year. The priority should be to get back to full-time instruction, not take PSSA tests. Parents have the ability to opt their child out of taking this test.”
Kovalchik said school districts are getting waivers to hold PSSAs and Keystones anytime from April through September.
“School districts are required to administer these tests, even during the pandemic, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but that’s something that we have to do because it’s part of the law coming down from the federal government,” Kovalchik said. “We are going to be sending out some information about the PSSA tests and the Keystone exams in the coming weeks.”
Students in third through eighth grades must take PSSAs. Keystones, which are required for graduation, are given in algebra 1, literature and biology for grades 7-12.
Parents can opt out of tests for their children for medical, religious and other reasons.
“We’re trying to get back into some type of normalcy here, but we’re going to follow all our health and safety guidelines,” Kovalchik concluded.
For access to Kovalchik’s March 1 announcement video, visit youtube.com/watch?v=mrF8fSfoN6s&feature=youtu.be.
The NASD board of education met Feb. 24, postponed from Feb. 22 because of a snowstorm.
The school board is next scheduled to meet 6:30 p.m. March 8 in the NAMS cafeteria, 1617 Laubach Ave. COVID-19 protocols, including face-mask wearing and social distancing, will be in effect.