The following information was sent home to all parents on Friday, March 20, via email.
During this time of school closures, Manheim Township School District is committed to our continued communication with staff, parents, and community in order to provide information, updates, and developments pertaining to our school district, the COVID-19/Coronavirus, and our state-wide response to this situation.
Below are updates on some important educational topics as well as our planning to resume education after March 30:
IMPORTANT GENERAL INFORMATION
- Standardized Tests (PSSAs and Keystones):
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced on Thursday (March 19th) the cancellation of all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year as a result of COVID-19. This includes the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). PDE is monitoring emerging federal guidance, working with other states to advocate for flexibility, and will pursue appropriate waivers to the fullest extent allowable as soon as the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) guidance is clarified. The USDE has already stated that it will consider a “targeted one-year waiver of the assessment requirements for those schools impacted by…extraordinary circumstances.”
- Make-up Days After Forced Shutdown:
As of today, it appears that school districts may be expected to attempt to make up some of the missed school days during the 10-day forced shutdown; however, guidance on this from the state changes on a daily basis. Like our parents, we continue to have a lot of questions and are waiting for additional clarification from the PDE. Thank you for your continued patience as we also seek to understand and gain clarity on make-up days. We anticipate information will be forthcoming, and we will keep our school community informed with information about this topic when we have answers.
- International Baccalaureate:
The IB program is providing additional guidance to IB schools and students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage our IB students and parents to refer to the IB FAQ page for pertinent information. Please click here to be directed to the IB programs FAQ page.
- SATs and AP Tests:
The College Board canceled the May 2, 2020 SAT administration, as well as all make-up test dates in March. The College Board is providing updates on their website, and we anticipate the College Board will share additional information and details directly with registered students and test centers. In addition, The College Board has said AP exams may be take-home tests this year. The College Board continues to post AP updates on its website and we encourage students and parents to check it daily.
- Daily Meals for Students:
MTSD Food Services team continues to serve Grab-n-Go breakfast and lunch meals at Bucher and Schaeffer Elementary Schools. This is available for all students age 18 and younger, Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Students must be present to receive a meal. At this time, we are using only MTSD staff members to prepare and distribute meals in order to limit the number of people handling food and interacting with families.
- Comcast is offering Free Hotspots:
Our data shows that approximately 2.5% of families in MTSD do not have internet access. Thus, we are pleased that Comcast is providing free Xfinity WiFi hotspots to anyone who needs them, including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit www.xfinity.com/wifi. Once at a hotspot, consumers should select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots and then launch a browser. Additionally, low-income families who live in a Comcast service area can sign-up for Internet Essentials. Visit this webpage for more information and eligibility.
Planning During the Two-Week Closure
This past week, our administrators continued to plan together remotely, via various technology platforms, for our students’ safe return to school on March 30th. At the time of this communication, we have not received any updates from Governor Wolf regarding whether or not schools will open for students on March 30, including for online learning. We will communicate with you about these next steps as soon as we hear the Governor’s decision for the provision of education from March 30 onward.
As per the direction from our State leadership, teachers are not to develop or facilitate any online lessons during the mandated closure. The PDE has given direction, just for the March 17-27 two-week closure, that schools are not to provide “any type of instruction during the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 response efforts.” However, there is significant planning at this time for how to provide educational programming once the two-week closure is over, beginning March 30.
You received communication from your student’s building principal or teacher with optional resources and activities for your student to do from home. While we remain committed to equity and accessibility in the midst of this crisis, we are offering students optional grade-appropriate academic and social-emotional activities for use at home for review and enrichment. We know that the elementary and secondary list of resources was long; however, the goal was to offer many different optional activities for students who are at different levels of learning and enrolled in various coursework. Our grades 7-12 students may go through the list of resources and choose options that pertain to his/her current course schedule.
Planning for Post-March 30 & Online Learning
As shared with you during past correspondence (in October and November 2019) related to our research into the provision of Flexible Instructional Days (FID), our findings after many months of study showed the complications and adverse implications for using online learning for ALL students K-12. For online learning to become the primary mode of instruction K-12, the PDE has previously required that school districts ensure full access to learning for all students, with particular attention to free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities and English as a second language (ESL) services for English Learners. Furthermore, districts could not provide online instruction for just one level of students (ie. just secondary level); the online educational programming must be applied for all students, K-12. We are pleased to hear that the PDE is currently reviewing the established framework for FID and discussing the possibility of revising some of those requirements in an effort to allow school districts to use FID during this time of uncertainty. There is also pending legislation focused on this topic and we expect to hear more from the PDE.
Recognizing that school districts may be required to provide online learning beyond March 30, we are currently researching and planning for online/remote educational opportunities that are equitable for all students. While acknowledging the adverse implications noted above regarding the education of our students with disabilities and students who have English as a second language, and the need for caution with extended screen time for our youngest learners, our planning involves discussion and review of appropriate learning for these groups of learners. We care about all of our students and know that a variety of online educational options will be necessary in order to meet unique educational needs.
As always, thank you for your continued patience and support during this challenging time. We know that many of our families are under a tremendous amount of stress. Since we are currently not in the schools, if you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to email your student’s building principal so we can help you navigate through this together.
Dr. Robin L. Felty
Superintendent of Schools