NBC School District to Return to Face-to-Face Instruction on Monday, Oct. 19
Students to Be in Classrooms Four Days Per Week
October 8, 2020
The Northern Bedford County School District Board on Tuesday, Oct. 13, voted to return to a more traditional face-to-face model of education.
This decision came in a 6 to 3 vote by board members after much discussion by members of the board, faculty, students and community.
Both sides of the issue presented their cases for why students should or should not return full time.
Brett Keith, a chorus teacher at NBC, spoke as a parent of children who attend NBC and expressed his concern that a return to full time face-to-face might be too soon.
Keith's sentiments were echoed by several including Janine England, eighth grade language arts and reading teacher who spoke on behalf of several teachers.
"We miss our students," England said, "but we have concerns about returning to full-time face-to-face."
Others worried that students would be less likely to concentrate on their studies if they were worried about COVID- related issues.
Those in favor of returning to school full-time included student Clay McIlnay who spoke on behalf of himself and several members of the student body.
"Hybrid needs to change," McIlnay said, "as students are getting frustrated with the interruptions associated with online learning."
McIlnay further explained that "most students want to go back full time."
While several parents and members of the community voiced their approval of returning to face-to-face instruction along with McIlnay. Bonnie Mussleman of Roaring Spring said that "COVID is not going anywhere. We need to learn to deal with it. If we can do sports, we can do school."
For and Against
Members of the board also made their opinions known, both for and against returning to face-to-face instruction.
Boardmember David Potchak spoke to rising numbers of COVID cases in the state and county as reason to keep the school schedule as it is.
Boardmember Chad Mickle said that while there have recently been two situations regarding COVID at Northern Bedford, there are "no findings that it came from school. The Custodians are doing a great job cleaning. Coronavirus is here we need to educate in the best way possible."
Boardmember Tammy Reasy argued that with everything being in a state of flux it stands to reason that schools will not look normal either.
Boardmember Ralph Scott argued firmly for returning to face-to-face instruction, listing several statistics as evidence. Among those statistics, Scott expressed that "there is no good option. COVID has wrecked the educational system."
Scott said that Northern Bedford's failure rate this time last year was significantly lower than it is this year. According to Scott, the percentage of students failing two or more courses at this time last year was 13% while the most recent figures suggest 119 students are currently failing.
"That's 41% of our students that are failing two or more courses." Scott said.
Scott also expounded upon the issue of staffing issues, especially related to the shortage of substitute teachers and how that is affecting the school. He said that substitutes have always been in short supply and this year is no different. Scott said that on Oct. 11, 2019, there were 13 teachers absent while on Oct. 12, 2020, there were 12 absent teachers.
In conclusion, Scott said that, "Yes it's a risk," speaking of returning to school, "but it's a risk worth taking."
At the conclusion of all this discussion, the board ultimately voted in a split vote with six board members in favor of returning to face-to-face instruction and three members voting no.
Tammy Reasy, Dave Potchak and Mike Miller voted "no." Steve Cottle, Chris Cronrath, John Eshleman, Chad Mickle, Ralph Scott and Randy Wiand voted "yes."
As a result of the board's decision, students will resume regular face-to-face instruction four days per week, continuing online learning on the fifth day. This schedule will be effective starting Monday, Oct. 19, and students in all grades will return to face-to-face instruction Monday through Thursday from that time on, until such a time as the school board feels it is appropriate to resume a full five-day school week.
NB Monitors Nearby
The superintendent of Northern Bedford, Todd Beatty, said in his monthly board report that the decision to return to face-to-face instruction came after "monitoring other nearby school districts which provide full-time face-to-face instruction."
Beatty said that "it was determined that the likelihood of full face-to-face instruction causing increased adverse impacts is minimal."
Beatty also said that "while the district recognizes COVID will continue to impact our way of life and the everyday educational process in the foreseeable future, we believe the educational necessity of having students return to increased levels of face-to-face instruction is of paramount importance, and the social and emotional needs of the students can no longer remain secondary."
Beatty also expressed that those students/parents who do not feel comfortable returning to the full face-to-face schedule will continue to be able to utilize the virtual classrooms. However, students in grades 6 to 12 will be required to "maintain their class schedule and log onto each class at the appropriate time."
Beatty said that "teachers will no longer be required to record lessons, as virtual students are expected to participate online and complete any required coursework."
In the elementary school, students/families that choose to remain fully virtual will be transitioned to a third-party vendor. As part of this virtual model the school board also passed a measure which will allow the school to contract Accelerate Education, a third-party vendor, which will provide "virtual education for elementary students for the 2020-21 school year." The costs associated with this program will be covered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency COVID grant money the school received. The anticipated start date for this program is no later than Nov. 9, "pending third-party vendor availability."
Parents who have concerns regarding transportation are directed to call Stacy Pressel at 766-4702. Similarly, parents are encouraged to contact building principals with any questions regarding educational concerns no later than Thursday, Oct. 15.
"I would like to commend and thank our students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, transportation providers, caregivers, community members, in short, everyone in our NBC school family, for the support, patience and understanding shown in this most difficult situation. I have had numerous reports of teachers going the extra mile for the students, and I cannot praise them enough. The same praise holds true for all of our staff." Beatty said in conclusion.