Colonial School Board votes 6-3 to reverse plan and go all virtual

During an over six-hour virtual meeting last evening, the Colonial School Board voted 6-3 to revise its 2021 reopening plan to 100% virtual. The board had previously voted on July 23rd for a reopening plan that allowed parents the choice between two-days of in-school instruction/three days virtual hybrid or 100% virtual.

The board voted as follows:

Yes to revise
Susan Moore
Adam Schupack
Jennifer Dow
Eunice Franklin-Becker
Rosemary Northcutt
Beth Patruno

No to revise
Cathy Peduzzi
Chris Epstein
Beth Suchsland

The switch to a 100% virtual model came at the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Michael Christian and the administration.

After the original plan was approved on July 23rd, the district instituted a survey to ask parents to select between the hybrid model or the 100% virtual model. Overall across the district, almost 75% selected the hybrid model. The two slides above are from Dr. Christian’s presentation made during the meeting, One shows the overall results and the other breaks the data down by school.

The “Concerns” slide above details five reasons the administration is making the recommendation to go fully virtual. One thing to point out, which Dr. Christian did, is that the county has now entered into an agreement to receive test results back within three days.

Dr. Christian stressed several times that these concerns would be monitored on an ongoing basis and every three to four weeks reevaluated.

In this slide, the status of other districts in the county are shown. Districts in yellow have gone with an all-virtual plan. During last night’s meeting, Wissahickon’s School Board voted to stick with its original plan and offer in-school instruction five-days-a-week for kindergarten through 5th grade and a hybrid plan for the older students. Wissahickon’s parents can also choose an all-virtual plan. Abington is set to make its decision on August 11th.

The districts that aren’t highlighted or circled are still planning to provide parents a choice between hybrid and all-virtual.

Many teachers and other staff live in districts that have gone 100% virtual. In regards to the fifth bullet point in the above slide, there is the potential according to Dr. Christian for up to twenty to twenty-five percent of the district’s teachers and staff taking an extended leave of up to 12 weeks that is available to them under the law. For example, if a teacher with a child or children lives in another district and that district has gone 100% virtual, the law allows the teacher to take the leave to be at home with his or her child(ren).

Before and after the decision the public had an opportunity to offer comments. We didn’t keep a tally, but the vast majority of parents and students who participated supported the hybrid model of returning to school. The two big issues for supporting the hybrid model were concerns over the mental health of students and the impact on families with a single parent or two working parents. Those speaking in support of a virtual plan were concerned about the virus and the potential spread within the school and home to families.

The video of the entire meeting is embedded in this article. There is a lot of information. Don’t let the six hours scare you off from watching, it is mostly public comment. Below are the timestamps of the presentation, board discussion, public comment periods, and the vote.

– Dr. Christian’s presentation – starts at the beginning
– Board discussion/questions – 33:00 to 1:11:40
(this includes a discussion on staffing the school)
– Public comment – 1:11:40 to 4:53:26
– Motion and vote – 4:53:26 to 5:19:25
– Additional public comment – 5:19:25 to end

More to come.