Community expresses concerns about starting school during Covid
By Kendall Patterson
As school time comes around, the Chester County Board of Education had to make decisions on when and how they were going to open up the schools in the Chester County School District.
At the time of the meeting, Chester County Director of Schools Troy Kilzer II said delaying school was not an option.
However, due to multiple complaints and concerns by parents, the school board scheduled another meeting Monday July 27 to revisit and possibly change decisions on when school will start back and if virtual options will be available to the students.
During their regular school board meeting on Thursday, July 16, a handful of parents expressed their thoughts on why the current plan of starting school August 4 and having no virtual options, in their opinions, was not a good idea.
The parents in the audience asked why school could not be delayed until the county sees a decline in cases or the State of Emergency is over on August 29.
They also wanted a virtual option for the students.
Kilzer in response said that it would not be fair to provide a virtual option for the students, because he said only a third of the county has the internet access to do so. The current plan just had the virtual option for those in medical need of it at the point of time.
Now, after more concerns reached the board over the weekend, if they decide to give a virtual option, they came up with a set of rules/ guidelines on how the virtual option might look. It was given in a survey to gauge the potential interest in a virtual option.
The survey said:
Please consider the following if you are interested in a potential virtual school option:
1.) Families will be responsible for providing their own high-speed internet access. The school district will be unable to provide the internet to virtual families.
2.) Families will be responsible for ensuring students have appropriate supervision as they complete their virtual coursework.
3.) Families will be asked to provide their students with a personal device to use in completing virtual coursework. Chromebooks may be provided by the district on a case by case basis.
4.) Students who are potentially enrolled in a virtual school option would need to commit to at least a semester of virtual enrollment. Students would be unable to return to the physical setting before the semester’s end. Additionally, families will not be able to enroll in a virtual option past the date of August 3, 2020.
5.) There will not be an open enrollment period for the second semester. Students who return to school physically will be enrolled in the physical setting for the 2020-2021 school year.
6.) This is not the new normal for the Chester County School district. Chester County Schools will continue to make decisions based on data provided by local and national health experts to determine when a complete physical return is prudent.
7.) This is a no-cost option to use virtual school thorough the Chester County School district.
8.) If offered a virtual option, students who enroll in the virtual option will still be eligible for athletics with the district.
They also expressed their thoughts on how school will work in the midst of Covid.
Kilzer stated that for a student to be considered to be exposed to the virus, they would have to have been within six feet of an infected individual for at least 10 minutes. Additionally, the schools are giving assigned seats to all the students in class, at lunch and on buses. One would not be considered to have been within exposure range unless they sit near the infected student in one of the seating arrangements.
Parent Mark Barnes said that this concept was not factual.
As far as this 10 minute exposure, that’s absolutely false. Let’s say for instance I sneeze right here. You’re saying they have to be around me 10 minutes to catch it? No, that’s absolutely false,” he said.
Chester County School Board member Dwight Bingham brought up how he has received multiple concerns about the dress code of children since they cannot try to clothes in stores now and how you can not return bought clothes, so parents are dealing with clothes may or may not fitting their children the way they would like them to.
After discussion with principals Tommie Kirk, Belinda Anderson and Clay Murley, a decision was made to modify the dress code.
Now, for boys, shirts do not have to tucked and a belt is not required. Also, any school shirt is allowed to be worn, solid t-shirts and pants, shorts and skirts can be any solid color with the exception of blue jeans, athletic shorts and yoga/ exercise pants.
Kilzer said the school system will be expecting parents to screen and check the temperatures of their children daily.
The schools will have 60-70 thermometers in total among them to help keep temperatures checked during the day and 120 hand sanitizing stations total that everyone can use.