Thursday, August 6, 2020

Pottsgrove Dumps Hybrid Plan, Votes 5-3 for Online

Families in the Pottsgrove School District went from having two choices for how their children would return to school this fall, to no choice.

For the past several months, the administration and school board have proceeded along parallel lines, with a "hybrid choice" to physically attend school two days a week," and online schooling the other three days; or a complete on-line program.

Families were given a deadline to choose which option their child or children would be using when school opens.

But that all changed Tuesday night. That's when a special meeting of the school board resulted in a 5-3 vote to offer only virtual online classes when school begins.

Unfortunately, there was this little other thing I was doing Tuesday night, reporting on Tropical Storm Isaias.

Boy, first there's a giant fire when Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown are voting on options and now a Tropical Storm when Pottsgrove votes. Can't catch a break. What it would be like to have more than one municipal reporter .... anyway ....

So obviously, I do not have all the particulars other than the following.

The board members voting for both options were School Board President Robert Lindgren, Vice President Al Leach and board member Tina McIntyre.

Those voting for all virtual were Bill Parker, Jim Lapic, Ashley Custer, Charles Nippert and Patty Grimm.

If you're wondering why there were eight votes instead of nine, it's because Scott Hutt resigned recently. I'm told he is taking over as West Pottsgrove's Township Manager but I have not confirmed that yet. (Yet another missed meeting; When there is only one reporter, stories get missed folks.)

The board will hold a special (virtual) meeting Thursday, Aug. 6 starting at 7 p.m. to to interview five candidates who have applied to replace Hutt.

According to the agenda posted, the candidates are: 
  • Sydney Coleman
  • John Davis
  • Jason McHugh
  • Jay Strunk
  • Bill Thompson
  • John Tremble
Reaction to the decision on the Facebook discussion sites has been, shall we say, heated. No need to repeat it here. Let's just say many of those who wanted the hybrid option are unhappy and are sounding off about it.

A letter Superintendent William Shirk sent home to parents Wednesday noted, "this decision came after multiple conversations during a time we continually received changing, and sometimes inconsistent, guidance from local, state, and federal advisories."

Here are the other salient points:

The PGSD Virtual Academy will offer the following highlights:
  • Students will follow a regular daily schedule that will follow a six-day cycle.
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday will offer live, synchronous instruction to the greatest extent possible. In addition, asynchronous work may occur on these days.
  • Wednesday will be an asynchronous day and will not be counted within the six-day cycle.
  • Tutoring for students will be available.
  • Flexibility will be offered so that students can complete some of the work outside of school hours.
  • Advanced Placement, Honors, and Dual Enrollment courses will be offered and occur as scheduled.
Here's the rest of the letter:
The PGSD Virtual Academy will differ greatly from the remote learning that occurred throughout the Spring of 2020 in several ways. Students will be required to attend classes and complete assignments, similar to what would occur while in a school building. We are creating consistent practices to allow for greater flexibility so that some tasks are provided and completed in real time, and others are done at the student’s convenience. Also, our K-5 students now have access to Schoology - a platform to strengthen instruction in a remote setting.

Over the course of the next week, the district will provide additional communication to families that will include sample daily schedules, available supports, and other necessary information. I invite you to read the list of questions and answers provided below to better support your understanding of our next steps.
I'm sorry I don't have more details or coverage for you, but I can only be in so many places at the same time and major flooding and trees down wins the day when it comes to news decisions.

I'll try to put more together for a report in The Mercury in the next few days.

Right now, I have to get ready for the Pottstown Borough Council meeting.

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