Covid-19 schools

As Covid-19 Cases Soar in Pennsylvania – A TESD Elementary School Teacher Provides Personal Observations

With the 2020 election last week and then the wait for the results, I purposefully delayed this post.

The news on Covid-19 cases is not good — the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported a one-day record of 4,035 new positive coronavirus cases on Saturday. That number more than doubled the springtime high. Since Covid began, at least 9,015 people in Pennsylvania have died from the coronavirus with new deaths reported daily. Cases are continuing to rise across Pennsylvania, with concern that the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better as we enter the colder months.

There is some encouraging news out this morning from Pfizer indicating their vaccine against Covid-19 is strongly effective and exceeding expectations – the early trial results showing an effective rate of 90 percent in preventing infection! Such good news!!

Not to take anything away from the encouraging Covid-19 vaccine news from Pfizer, but … until the vaccine is readily available, the pandemic continues and coronavirus cases surge.  In fact, multiple school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania have closed schools as more students and staff became infected.

In our District, a staggered reopening began on October 12 with a hybrid in-person option as well as continued virtual learning.

The table below is the latest weekly snapshot of Covid-19 cases in the T/E School District. Each week the District updates the information. The chart indicates that for the week ending November 6, the District reported 2 new cases at Conestoga High School, 1 new case at T/E Middle School, 1 new case at Valley Forge Middle School and 1 new case at New Eagle Elementary School.  No new Covid-19 cases reported from the District staff for the week.

At the end of each week, the District updates its dashboard for new Covid-19 cases (students and staff). To review the results, click here.

A few days before last week’s election, I received an anonymous email in regards to the Covid-19 health crisis from a member of the T/E staff, which was both unsettling and concerning.  Before posting the remarks, I asked the writer to call me to verify. We had a lengthy conversation and the teacher from one of our elementary schools wants her observations to be made public.

Not wishing to add to the heightened anxiety surrounding the presidential election, I purposely held off posting the teacher’s remarks (below) until now. The elementary school teacher was careful to point out to me, that the comments are representative of her school only – and further, she has no information about the District’s handling of the pandemic at the other elementary schools, the middle schools or the high school.

Hi Pattye!

I work at a school in the district, and I’ve been holding off reaching out to you, but I can’t anymore. I’m scared for my health. I’m scared for our students. I’m scared for my family after being exposed all day at work.

In my school, I have frequently seen teachers walk around with just a face shield and no mask — this is approved by the district, but the shields are open on the sides and top and can easily allow transmission to happen.

I’ve heard teachers say covid isn’t real and keep their masks off even when other staff or students are present — this is not allowed and administration is aware — yet nothing changes.

I’ve seen support staff huddled up together talking with their masks off.  I have seen staff not following social distancing guidelines.

Wednesdays are supposed to be a day for deep cleaning to take place, yet the room for 4/5 days a week students from all different grades and classes is not being cleaned. The staff is wiping down desks themselves because no one comes in to clean them. The only things that I have seen being cleaned are doorknobs and light switches — which while appreciated, don’t account for the numerous other areas students touch daily.

I’ve seen specials teachers handing out shared materials. I have seen students not following social distancing guidelines with teachers nearby — but the teachers don’t correct them.

It’s overwhelming. There are students coughing and sneezing, but if they don’t have a fever they aren’t sent home.

There are staff that have symptoms that are told to stay home (yet no cases are being reported on the dashboard run by Chris Groppe).  We have had numerous cases where support staff has been out with symptoms or due to exposure, yet the students they work with are still allowed to come to school.

We had a situation where a staff member was exposed and had to be tested, yet none of the staff who were exposed to that person were ever notified. I feel like we are being misled by administration.

Everyone says we’re safe — but we have several students out this week (some who have parents who communicated the student’s symptoms) yet there’s no word on whether the students will be required to be tested before they return to school.

I honestly feel like TESD has no desire to notify people who are exposed unless there is a positive test — and at that point, it may be too late. I really feel like the community and parents need to be aware of what is going on here.

I am beyond shocked that the schools have been able to remain open as long as they have, but I honestly believe it’s because the district isn’t being honest about possible cases/exposure.

Signed,

Let Down in T/E School District

Based on my discussion with the District teacher, it appears that the policy/protocol around the students who exhibit symptoms of Covid – such as cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever, etc. and when they can return to school, are vague and need to improve. The teacher is concerned that the administration is not providing accurate information on other staff and on covid testing results. It’s worth repeating, these observations are from a District teacher in one elementary school and may not be representative of all the schools.

I asked the teacher how staff reporting of Covid policy breaches was handled – I learned that the staff is free to report any breaches to the school principal. However, the teacher said that she (and others) were uncomfortable with the reporting policy, preferring anonymity. I wonder if there be a way for staff to report anonymously – maybe utilizing a locked comment box?

Without question, the ongoing health crisis is difficult for all — the parents, students, teachers and administration. Families are challenged as they make educational choices for their children during the pandemic. And with Covid-19 cases on the rise, those decisions are all the more important.

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TESD Reopening Plan Now Available – District Opens August 31 w/Remote Learning Only, In-Person Instruction after Sept. 21

With notification that the District would release the school reopening plan the “week of July 20”, parents waited anxiously all week. On Friday night, after work hours, the public finally learned about the plan on the TESD website. (Click here for the District’s reopening plan page).

Below please read the reopening post on the District website with links highlighted. There are individual links to the slide presentation, feedback form, FAQ, Phased School Reopening Health and Safety Plan and Continuity of Education Plan. Please make sure to click on all the links to review the specifics.

The timeline is very short for your review and response – you only have until Monday, July 27 at noon to make comments and you must use the highlighted feedback form link.

In my first quick review, a few points – the District will open on August 31 but with full virtual instruction for at least the first three weeks of school. There will be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Parents will be given the option to transition to in-person instruction after Sept. 21 or continue with all virtual instruction.

Classrooms to be arranged to allow social distancing of 6 ft. in all instructional settings although the District states that 6 ft. social distancing cannot be managed in hallways or on buses. Facemasks required for all students and staff.

One question that I have – In an in-person school scenario, what is the process if a student or teacher tests positive to Covid-19. What happens to the class? Or to the entire school? Are the other families notified? What is the process to re-close schools if there is a positive Covid-19 outbreak?

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Reopening Schools: 2020-2021

On Monday, July 27, 2020, the T/E School District Administration will present its proposed plans for reopening T/E schools this fall. The presentation slides on the reopening plans are available here.

The District Meeting to Present the Reopening Plans will be held at 7:00 PM on July 27. In accordance with state guidelines, the meeting will be held virtually. The link to the live meeting will be available on the TESD website by 6:00 PM the day of the meeting. The meeting will be live streamed and also recorded. Barring any technical issues, a video of the meeting will be posted on the District website later on Tuesday, July 28.

Community members may submit comments or questions about the reopening plan by using the Reopening Plan Feedback Form.

    • The feedback form will close at noon on Monday, July 27.
    • Comments received by noon will be forwarded to all School Board members for their information.
    • The administration will attempt to incorporate the answers to as many questions as possible in Monday’s meeting presentation.
    • During the meeting, at the conclusion of the reopening plan presentation, the feedback form will be available again for community members to submit additional comments and questions. There will be a short break in order for the public to submit additional comments and questions. The administration will answer as many of the new questions as possible during the remainder of the meeting.

On Wednesday, July 29, 2020 the School Board will hold a special meeting at 7:30 PM to take action on the proposed reopening plans. In accordance with state guidelines, the meeting will be held virtually. The link to the live meeting will be available on the TESD website by 6:00 PM the day of the meeting. Community members will also have the opportunity to submit public comment about the reopening plans at the Special School Board Meeting. Public comment submitted for the July 29 Special School Board Meeting will be read at the meeting, time permitting. The agenda materials for the July 29 Special School Board meeting and information on how to submit public comment will be available on the TESD website on Tuesday, July 28.

Additional documents on reopening schools include Frequently Asked Questions, Phased School Reopening Health and Safety Plan and the Continuity of Education Plan.

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