Amid Conflicting Advice, Norristown Schools Work On Reopen Plan

NORRISTOWN, PA — The Norristown Area School District will offer a multi-option plan for students heading into the 2020-21 school year, with families given a choice of in-person or virtual instruction, officials announced. The announcement comes as the district has waded through a net of inconsistent recommendations from local leaders and health officials.

“We will provide parents with as many options as possible to allow you to make the best decision for your child’s health, safety, and educational progress,” Superintendent Christopher Dormer said.

Dormer added that the district had received 16 different sets of “official guidance” from a variety of agencies at the local, state, and federal level. The diversity of opinions and sometimes conflicting advice indicates “obvious lack of coordination” between officials, Dormer said.

“While a majority of parents indicated in our survey that they want or need their children to return for in-person instruction, many families feel that a full virtual of cyber option is best at this time,” Dormer said.

The virtual courses will be taught by Norristown educators. Further details on the two options will be made available in the coming weeks so families can make an informed decision, Dormer added.

The updated guidance released Thursday by the Pennsylvania Department of Education clarifies that students must wear masks at all times during the school day, except when eating, drinking or situated six feet apart. The guidance also includes new recommendations on social distancing, transportation safety, and procedures in the event a student or staff member becomes infected.

Dormer said that the school district is still “working through” this guidance, as well as the guidance issued by Montgomery County officials last Friday, saying that officials have been “agonizing over how best to ensure everyone’s safety.” The county’s guidelines also discourage large gatherings, field trips and extracurricular activities.

Earlier this week, Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union implored state officials to direct public schools to plan for an online start to school if the spread of the coronavirus doesn’t slow by the fall.

Pennsylvania State Education Association President Rich Askey, in a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, said it is “extremely important for Pennsylvania’s public schools to plan for the distinct possibility that further increases in COVID-19 cases will make it impossible to safely reopen Pennsylvania’s schools for in-person instruction.”

This article originally appeared on the Norristown Patch

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