Kennett Consolidated School District Aims for Oct. 26 Hybrid Reopening
By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Consolidated School District Board unanimously approved superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey’s plan to reopen schools, but not without many questions of procedure and expressions of concern for students.
Telling the board on Monday in an online Zoom meeting that Kennett and Avon Grove were the last among local schools to reopen for some in-person classes, Blakey said the statistics of COVID-19 infection for the greater Kennett community and specifically among young students was low and safe, according to the Chester County Health Department.
He and his staff have developed a model that includes instruction available for students in-class as well as for those who choose to continue virtual learning with their laptop computers. His presentation to reopen in-school instruction is formally known as his “hybrid plan.”
“We wanted to focus on a plan that was good for everyone,” Blakey said.
The hybrid in-school plan presents a two-section schedule: One for grades K-5, and the other for grades 6-12.
The students in the earlier grades whose families choose to return to class will attend school five days a week, but will be divided into two groups by early and late letters of the alphabet. Throughout the meeting, Blakey and his colleagues referred to the groups of students as “cohorts.”
For the elementary school group, the students whose last names start with A-Le will attend school in the morning, and those with Li-Z will attend in the afternoon. This will start on Oct. 26 for the morning cohort and Oct. 27 for the afternoon cohort.
The remote instruction will continue for those who do not choose to return to school.
Then on the week of Nov. 16, the later grades will start in-school instruction.
Those students who elect the return in-person model will attend school on either Monday-Tuesday or on Thursday-Friday. On the other three days, the students will participate in remote learning. Those who do not choose the hybrid model will continue with virtual learning. Again, the cohorts will be divided based on the first letter of their last names.
The first day for the early alphabet older students will be Monday, Oct. 16, and for the lower alphabet it will be on Thursday, Oct. 19.
High School Principal Dr. Jeremy Hritz endorsed the benefits of in-school learning, saying they provide continuity of schedule, less screen tine and face-to face interaction with teachers.
Director of Facilities George Wolhafe addressed the safety precautions the district is taking. Among them are face masks (students who refuse will be referred to remote learning); desks and students will be six feet apart and facing in the same direction; mask breaks outside; limit activities to those that support social distancing; and no water fountains. Students will have locations where they can fill their own water bottles.
Buses will load seating from back to front, the drivers will wear masks and the buses will be sanitized regularly.
School nurse Diane Shannon fielded a barrage of questions about student safety regarding health. She encouraged parents to keep their kids home if they had symptoms, and keep them home for 10 days if they had contracted COVID-19. It was important to get clearance from a doctor before returning to school, she said.
There were repeated questions from the board members on what would happen if a student or more than one was diagnosed with the virus.
Shannon said that, according to health department protocols, parents would be notified if a first student was affected, but not so for additional cases.
The conflict between confidentiality and releasing information lies in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, which address privacy issues of people who are sick.
In other business, Athletic Director Sean Harvey announced that each sports team participant would be allowed two spectator tickets per game, both home and away.
Student council member Meredith Davies announced that the Kennett Football team beat Henderson last Friday night.
Parents will be notified of bus schedules by mail and can get more complete information online from the school district by visiting kcsd.org.