July 30, 2020
Good Morning LASD Families
Thank you to the 550 people who completed the survey that I sent a few weeks ago to gauge your thoughts on returning to school. Only 54% of our families committed to returning to school full-time. The number one comment under "other" was not wanting your children to return wearing masks. I do understand that concern. I was a little surprised that our number of 54% was so low, as other local districts numbers were much higher, but I thank you all for your honesty and feedback.
Schools are beginning to change their back to school plans as the school year approaches based on data from within their own community, and statewide. We need to make sure that we have the best plan possible for our communities to start the school year.
As I have said numerous times, the school board approved our back to school plan on June 24. Our current plan is on the district website if you would like to review it. In that plan, it states that students will return full-time with the option of a cyber plan for students whose parents wish to keep them home due to health concerns. After that plan was sent out, we only had 11 kids signed up for Leechburg Area Cyber Academy.
In July, the mask requirements changed. I sent out a detailed email stating that when students were not 6 feet apart, they would need to wear a face covering. This is when I sent the survey out asking for tentative family plans. This was when the cyber numbers increased.
Our school board is now tasked with deciding if our plan needs to be altered for the start of the school year. This decision is not easy and will be taken very seriously. In order for me to give them information to make the most informed decision, we need your final decision on what your child(ren) plan to do for the start of the school year. We ask that you make this commitment for one nine weeks. We will reevaluate this decision every nine weeks and will ask your family to do the same.
Before I ask you to make a commitment, I want to answer a few questions and give you a few pieces of information:
1. Cyber school: Our cyber school will be taught asyronously. What does that mean? That means that that lessons will be recorded and placed on the a web page. There will be many more details to come as school starts on how to access it and what to do, but all sessions will be recorded. There will be "office hours" available where teachers will directly be available to help students. There have been huge concerns about flexibility and the availability of a teacher. This plan will allow for both. Once I get all parents final decisions, we will have virtual meetings for all that have signed up. I am currently working with our teachers to work out the details.
Onto the cyber school cost issue. Cyber charter schools advertise and recruit. They claim it is "free" and that makes it very appealing for families. I want you to fully be aware that if you chose a cyber school outside of our LASD Cyber Academy, it has an enormous negative impact on an already tight budget. For a regular education student to attend a cyber school outside of our district, the cost is $14,500 for EACH student that attends. For a child with special education needs, that cost sky rockets to $27,500 for EACH student. The cyber schools bill our district for each student. This money comes from tax payer dollars. These cyber school teachers have hundreds of students on their rosters. When a student is educated at LASD via cyber, there are still additional costs; however, the cost is approximately $3000 or less per student. I ask you to please, if you are picking the cyber option, consider the expense to our community. With our cyber option, your child is still a student of Leechburg with all of the Leechburg resources. In addition, the education is matched to what we are doing at Leechburg. Finally, teacher rosters reflect our class size numbers.
2. CDC guidelines: Our school is following the same plans as all other schools. If you read what other schools are doing with social distancing, masks, cleaning, busing, etc., we are all the same. We all have the same exact guidelines to follow. We are not unique or alone in what we are asking of our families and staff.
3. Face guards: We have ordered every student and staff member a face shield. Face shields are much easier to wear, speak with, breath with and hear with. We will not be forcing students to wear the shield, but they will be required to wear some sort of face covering when they are not six feet apart. Again, this is not our choice, it is a nonnegotiable mandate. We will do everything that we can do maximize the 6 feet rule. This will look differently in every classroom and at every grade level. This is for everyone's safety. If your child has a true medical condition that prohibits them from wearing a mask, please be prepared to provide a doctor's exemption as soon as possible as we are now required to write a plan for each one of those children.
4. Schedule: The schedule will look very similar to our traditional schedules. At the high school, students will not be changing for physical education classes because we are not permitted to use locker rooms. At the elementary, specials teachers will go to the students. This is to eliminate exposing bacteria to all classrooms. Lunches will be split. At the secondary, some will eat in the cafeteria and some will eat in the auditorium. At the elementary, some will eat in the cafeteria and some will eat in the multi-purpose room. There will be 30 minutes scheduled as it always has been.
5. Quarantine: The new guideline for quarantine is that if you were exposed to someone with COVID for longer than 15 minutes and closer than 6 feet, you will need to quarantine. I can offer no other guideline because the District will not be making this decision. If someone is positively diagnosed, the Health Department will contact me or I will contact them, and tell me what to do. That is not our decision. The Health Department will be making the decision.
It is true that plans can and will change based on new mandates and COVID case numbers. We can only make a solid plan based on what we know on that day. Total inconvenience, but just something that is the brutal truth.
I promise to do my very best and give you 100% effort to make sure that you have the correct and most accurate information. I will know more than Facebook about school related issues, so please ask me and not Facebook about a rumor. I wish that I could promise you that everything will be perfect and no one will get ill with the flu, cold, strep throat, pink eye, COVID, etc., but I can promise none of that. Just as it has always has been and always will, people will get sick. We do promise to take every precaution to minimize the risk of any illness. These include temperature checks, repeated and frequent cleaning, hand washing, desk wiping, desk spacing, mask wearing, etc. We ask you to do the same by keeping your kids home if they are not well. We take our staff and students health very seriously and have been planning non-stop to assure families that we are giving it our all.
Finally, we ask you to complete the survey by Monday, August 3 at 11:59 pm. We are asking if you will return all day or chose cyber. You will have the choice to pick again towards the end of the first nine weeks. These numbers will be presented to the school board for a choice.
Once I get the final numbers and the school board makes their vote, I will send out another detailed outline of what we are doing and what to expect. If at that time the choice is to return all day with a cyber option, that is when we will have a session on the cyber choice to give all details and answer all questions. If the choice is to go all cyber for the district, details will be provided as well on what to expect, how to do it and what it will look like for families. No matter the decision, education will be nothing like the spring. Teachers will be teaching and students will be accountable for their work. Grades will be earned and not given.
I know this is a lot. You need to pick what is right for your family. We will not be judging anyone for their choice. We are in this together! I simply wish to give you the facts.
Please ask me any questions. I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Thank you for your time and patience. This is very overwhelming and stressful for us all, but we will get through it.
Tiffany Nix, Superintendent