February 10 & 11 Parent Information Sessions
These information sessions presented on February 10 & 11 address how the second half of the school year will operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elementary Parent Information Session - February 10, 2021
Secondary Parent Information Session - February 11, 2021
Updated: February 18, 2021
Q. What parameters need to be met to switch to 5 days of in-person learning?
A. The guidance for 6 feet of social distancing (currently the recommendation of the Chester County Health Department, PA Departments of Health and Education, CDC and Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania) would need to change. At 6 feet, we do not have the space in our buildings for all students to attend in person. At 3 feet, we would most likely be able to bring back all students who want to be in-person. As transmission rates continue to drop, we hope the current guidance will change.
Q. Would WCASD go against the 6 feet requirement in order to return students to 5 days of in-person learning?
A. Currently, our school board committed to following the Chester County Health Department guidelines, which currently mandates 6 feet.
Q. Please explain why other schools can operate successfully going 5 days per week but WCASD can't? What is being done to change that?
A. Our space analysis shows we cannot bring all students to our schools in-person, 5 days a week, while maintaining 6 feet of social distancing. We have asked the state and local health officials to analyze schools that are doing this.
Q. Is six feet of social distancing a hard and fast rule, or are other mitigation efforts like masks, contact tracing, and improved ventilation allowable for a reduction in the six feet rule?
A. According to the Chester County Health Department, all schools are using a layered mitigation approach. No one mitigation approach stands on its own and must be combined with others. Following masking, contact tracing, and other mitigation efforts doesn’t negate the need for social distancing.
Q. As we start to bring students back to 5 days a week, in-person, will teachers also be required to be in-person?
A. Yes, teachers will be required to teach in-person unless there is a medical reason preventing them from doing so, or they have been placed in quarantine due to contact tracing.
Q. Are you anticipating any staffing issues? If so, does the district have a plan in place?
A. Schools and many other organizations and companies nationwide have experienced staffing concerns since the beginning of the pandemic. We have been working to secure additional substitute teachers and have hired additional long-term substitutes district-wide. Aides cover classrooms when a teacher has to work remotely. This has been very challenging and is not unique to WCASD.
Q. Once the district has transitioned back to 5 days of in-person learning, how will in-person students who need to quarantine continue their learning?
A. If a student needs to quarantine they would log on remotely during their quarantine period the same way we do now.
Q. Will students and staff be required to continue to wear masks even if they have been vaccinated?
A. We will continue to follow the guidelines published by the Chester County Health Department. At this point in time, masks are still required even if someone has been vaccinated.
Q. Will WCASD be implementing a COVID testing program, for example, similar to NYC public schools' testing program?
A. The district is partnering with the Project ACE-IT (Assisting Childhood Education through Increased Testing) initiative to make rapid testing available to staff members who are in the building 5 days a week who have volunteered to be tested weekly. There are limitations on the amount of testing that can be done in the buildings due to time and staffing concerns, but in the future, rapid testing may be available more broadly.
Q. Will WCASD continue to offer remote learning for the remainder of the school year?
A. Yes, remote learning will remain an option for the rest of the school year.
Q. Will students who currently attend 4 days per week remain that way for the rest of the school year?
A. We will need to evaluate our space needs and current guidance to make that determination.
Q. How are teachers/the district addressing the emotional health of those students not being offered four-day a week instruction?
A. We are asking parents to reach out directly to their student’s teachers, guidance counselor, and principal to address any concerns. Emotional health is very important, and we have expressed this issue to our health department.
Q. Will the district be handling the week after Spring break/Easter much like Thanksgiving/New Years, with a week of all-virtual learning across the district?
A. This will depend on transmission rates/levels at the time of Spring Break.
Q. The district’s mitigation efforts are strong and working. Has the district considered replacing remote Wednesdays in favor of increasing in-person instruction on a rotating basis between Cohort A & B?
A. We are considering the phase-out of virtual Wednesdays. Originally, this was requested by teachers as an important way to instruct students together, on the same platform, while also allowing for increased group work with asynchronous time. This is something we are analyzing with our instructional staff.
Q. Why can't plexiglass be installed in the classrooms so schools can open 5 days?
A. Plexiglass is not a mitigation strategy that the county, state, or CHOP say negates the need for 6 feet of social distancing.
Q. Will summer learning sessions be recorded?
A. We are not planning to record the live sessions, but there will be asynchronous (recorded) lessons available at all levels created by our teachers.
Q. When will students be assessed for readiness to advance into the next grade?
A. Teachers are constantly monitoring students to follow up on any concerns. Each spring we analyze student progress and discuss with parents any possible need to retain students. That process has already been in place pre-pandemic, and we plan to continue with that.
Q. Do you anticipate a larger than normal number of students being held back this year? How will the schools manage that?
A. We do anticipate having more discussions than usual about retentions. The summer learning program is in place to potentially lower the number of students who may need to be retained.
Q. How confident are you that students will all be back in the classroom for Fall 2021?
A. Currently, we are planning to bring back all students in the fall. While we can’t predict the future, we are very hopeful that the next school year will not include 6 feet of social distancing. Parents will have an option to choose our WC Cyber Program.
Q. Will the district offer a remote option next year if the pandemic remains the same?
A. Currently, we are planning to open in the fall with all students back in person five days a week. We will not offer remote learning next year. Parents will also have the option to choose the WC Cyber Program which we anticipate will be offered in grades K - 12.
Q. Why do some staff members cut classes short even when students are in person?
A. With rare exception, classes should not be cut short. Teachers may provide asynchronous time for students to complete work, however. If you feel classes are consistently shorter, please notify your child’s principal.
Q. Why are classes often cancelled on remote Wednesdays?
A. This should not be occurring. There may be an occasional case where the teacher is sick and cannot teach remotely and asynchronous work will be assigned. If you see this happening on a consistent basis, you are encouraged to contact your child’s principal.
Q. At what point will teachers be able to transition away from having to simultaneously teach students in person and remotely?
A. This will depend on when the Chester County Health Department issues a change in social distancing guidance from 6 feet to 3 feet. However, we are likely to still encounter some online learning, especially at the secondary level, as we will continue to offer a remote learning option for the duration of this school year for families that don’t feel comfortable returning to the buildings.
Q. Why are principals not requiring teachers to enforce the district requirement that students have their cameras on when working remotely?
A. Students should have their cameras on during class. Occasionally, a student may have permission keep their camera off, due to personal circumstances. Please address any concerns to your child’s teacher or principal.
Q. In the 2021-22 school year, if a student has to quarantine will they be able to remote into their classes?
A. We are still working through that decision. We are hoping for a full return for the 2021-22 school year with students in school 5 days per week. If parents want a full-time remote option, they will need to enroll their child in the WC Cyber Program.
Q. What percentage of WCASD staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. As of February 11, just over 1 percent of employees have received both doses. Three percent of our staff have received one dose. We have been advocating with legislators and state officials to prioritize educators for vaccines. Pennsylvania has unfortunately and disappointingly fallen far behind most other states with vaccine distribution.
Q. Will you offer an elementary cyber program next year?
A. Yes, the elementary cyber program will be offered next school year.
Q. Has the district discussed ways to increase in-person instruction for the youngest learners, particularly kindergarten?
A. The school board adopted a Health and Safety Plan that suggested we bring back younger children first. We did that in October when we moved from virtual to hybrid instruction, and we plan to follow that process if and when the guidance for social distancing (currently at six feet) allows us to bring all students back to in-person instruction (3 feet).
Q. What is being done to encourage high school students to attend in-person? Many don’t want to attend because none of their peers are going.
A. As more students are returning to our buildings, other students have been encouraged to also return. All three high schools are working on plans to host end-of-year events, especially for seniors, as we are hopeful that this will also encourage more students to come back to the schools.
Q. When will the secondary schools return to a normal 8 period class schedule and eliminate the Block Schedule?
A. We are looking into the possibility of adjusting the secondary schedules. This change may depend on the timeline for when we are able to return students back to full time, in-person instruction. Until we can do that, block scheduling allows for greater flexibility for teachers to connect with both remote and in-person students.
Q. Are high school students who play sports for WCASD required to attend school under the hybrid model?
A. No, this is not a requirement.
Q. Are high school students who signed up for hybrid through 3/31 marked absent when they don't show up on their cohort day (with the exception of illness and quarantine)?
A. Yes, they would be marked absent if they do not attend school on their cohort day unless they are sick or under quarantine.
Q. Rather than having students change classrooms at the secondary level, can teachers move to homerooms to teach in order to reduce the amount of movement in the hallways?
A. This would be difficult to implement because each student’s schedule is unique and they do not move as a homeroom cohort as many elementary classrooms do. For instance, some students who take Honors Math in one period may then move onto Accelerated Honors English while others may then move onto CCP English. If teachers move in and out of homerooms to teach their courses instead of having students move, teachers would have to teach to various course levels in the same classroom at the same time. This would be very difficult to achieve.
Q. How would proms work with six feet of social distancing? Would students be required to wear masks?
A. We are still in the planning phases to determine whether or not we can conduct a prom. The governor’s orders for large gatherings are still in place, and it may limit how many people can gather in one location. If we are able to find a location to accommodate a large group with proper social distancing guidance, students would be required to wear masks at prom. Our high school principals will be providing updates this spring.