G-A back-to-school plan blends in-person and online instruction

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

The Greencastle-Antrim School District is ready to start the 2020-21 school year — both physically and virtually — with a plan reflecting Pennsylvania's "green" phase of COVID-19 recovery. The district also is prepared to continue instruction if the state reverts to "yellow" or "red."

The first day of school is Monday, Aug. 24, pending school board approval on Aug. 6.

A task force, comprised of health and safety, facilities, food service, transportation, emotional support needs, teaching and learning and special education committees, developed the plan, which was released late last week.

Task force members, including administrators, teachers, other district staff, parents, students and medical professionals, focused on three priorities: health and safety of students, staff and community; high quality teaching and learning; and social and emotional health and well-being of students and their families.

From the superintendent 

"Our primary responsibility as a school district is to provide a quality educational experience that results in every student experiencing personal success in preparation to excel in the future. We will be unwavering in our commitment to high quality learning experiences, while establishing a safe environment that adheres to the recommendations of our reputable health organizations," Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent, wrote in a letter to families.

"Uncertainty and unpredictability of those changing recommendations may cause anxiety in students, as well as with our families. Therefore, our plan for the 2020-2021 school year serves to provide guidance for any change in the color phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and/or orders that are outside the perimeters of our control," Hanks continued. "We hope that children and families can find some comfort in knowing the plan in advance and prepare accordingly. Please understand that this plan may change at any moment and we will communicate as clearly and quickly as possible."

Hanks, who became superintendent July 1, concluded her letter, "It is an unusual time to be transitioning to the district, however, a great time and opportunity to lead the Greencastle-Antrim community into the future. It is likely that the educational landscape will continue to evolve as a result of our current circumstances. It will be those who embrace this opportunity that will thrive. I expect G-ASD will thrive and we will continue to celebrate the success and pride in the achievements of our students! Please be on the lookout for new opportunities to support G-ASD in defining what the destination will be for our students as we set sail into 2020-2021! I look forward to serving the students, families, and community of G-ASD."

 Different colors 

Under the "green" plan, children in kindergarten through eighth grade will attend school four days a week — Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Instruction will be virtual on Wednesdays.

High school students will attend school in person two days a week — either Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays. Their classes will be online three days a week.

"We will use our time in the 'green phase' to fully prepare students and teachers to ease into any potential shift to the 'yellow' or 'red' phase without compromising student learning," Hanks wrote. "We are embracing the opportunity to personalize learning and work collaboratively to keep G-ASD as a model of excellence in education."

In the more restrictive "yellow" phase, the primary, elementary and middle schools would drop to 50% capacity, with one group of students attending in-person Mondays and Tuesdays and another attending Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be still be virtual. High-schoolers would follow the same schedule as in "green."

The district would shift to all virtual learning if the "red" phase is reinstated.

A fully digital learning option also is being developed for families that are apprehensive about sending their children back to school in person.

 Health and safety 

"Please know that the face-to-face instruction will look different than in the past, however, the ability for students to interact in person with staff and peers can be critical to many in their learning, and therefore we are working to secure the safety of children while also offering this opportunity," Hanks wrote. "We will have a complete Health and Safety Plan posted on our website prior to the opening of school and updated as the situation evolves. That plan will serve as our district guidance for a safe reopening."

Students will be required to wear masks on the bus and anytime the current social distance recommendations cannot be met.

Under "green" families will be asked to take children's temperatures at home. Under "yellow," temperatures will be taken when students arrive at school. If a student has symptoms of COVID-19 or a temperature of 100.4 or higher, he or she would be moved to an isolation area in the health room for further evaluation.

On the bus 

Masks required

Windows down 2 inches for ventilation

Fewer students per seat when possible

Assigned seating

Hands-free sanitizer used boarding and exiting the bus

Buses sanitized between runs

Staggered bus arrival and departure times

 Food service 

Students pick up meals in cafeteria

Students eat in classrooms or assigned cafeteria seating

Barcode scanners replace keypads

 In the buildings 

Multiple entrances used to diffuse large groups

Staggered use of communal spaces

Sanitization daily

Adjustments to improve ventilation

Cleaning logs

Increased hand sanitizer locations

One-way traffic patterns

Additional information about the back-to-school plan, including a video message from the superintendent, can be found on the district website: