C-L district plans for a Jan. 11 hybrid re-opening

By Ryan S. Pugh

CLARION NEWS Sports Editor

CLARION TWP.

In a year the Clarion-Limestone School District has seen a number of twists and turns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the district zagged again in a special meeting held via Zoom Dec. 29.

Meeting via "Zoom," The Clarion-Limestone School Board Dec. 29 approved returning the district to the instruction plan with certain modifications -- used earlier in the year when Clarion County was in the moderate COVID infection rate status.

The plan, proposed by board member Nathaniel Parker, will have the district return to a blended instruction model with the district providing in-person, synchronous (live, online) and asynchronous (recorded, downloadable) instruction to students.

The modified plan was approved by a narrow 5-4 margin with board members Parker, David Eggleton, Gary Sproul, Roger Powell and Rebecca Allison voting in favor of the plan.

Under the new plan, the district's teachers were to return Jan. 4 and begin remote instruction for all students on Jan. 7. The district's buildings will open for in-person instruction Jan. 11.

The district will revert to its schedule of holding in-person classes four days per week with Wednesday being a remote instruction day for all students.

There are hurdles involved in returning the district to in-person instruction especially when it comes to adhering to Pennsylvania Department of Health (DoH) and Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) guidelines regarding physical distancing and the wearing the wearing of face coverings.

In order for a district to reopen in a hybrid instruction model when its home county is in the substantial phase of infection, students must maintain six feet of social distance while also wearing face coverings the entire day.

C-L Superintendent Amy Glasl said she plans to poll the district's parents as to whether they would have their students return to in-person instruction or whether they would keep their children in remote learning.

The poll would give Glasl an idea of how many students would be returning for in-person instruction and what adjustments had to be made in classrooms in order to ensure six feet of physical distance between students.

Glasl said she is certain there is not enough space in the school's elementary or high school building if all students return.

An attempt to contact Glasl before this edition of the newspaper's deadline for more information about her plan was unsuccessful.

Board member David Schirmer was skeptical the reopening will be possible.

"I want to see how the district can follow all these mandates the school has put on us such as the six foot distancing and the mask requirements," Schirmer said. "I think they are extremely difficult to accomplish while school is in session."

Schirmer also voiced a concern that parents who cannot afford child care would send their students back to school because they don't have the option to keep them at home.

Schirmer was also concerned that the continuity of education would be interrupted if students return to in-person classes.

Schirmer was concerned if the school was forced to return to remote instruction due to confirmed COVID-19 cases in the buildings it would adversely affect to students.

Under PDE and DoH guidelines, when buildings with small enrollment (under 500 students) has two to four positive cases in the building, the building is required to close for three to seven days for deep cleaning.

If a building has five or more cases, the building is required to close for 14 days and the school would provide only remote instruction.

C-L district has an elementary school and a high school on its campus.

Allison believes the district needs to return to some form of in-person instruction.

"I am voting to support this motion because we have to make some positive strides, some forward strides," Allison said before the vote. "We have to try some things. I believe there are going to be some modifications and adjustments that will have to be made but I believe we have reached the point now where we have to move forward and we need to get our students back into the classroom. We need to show our community we are listening to them and we are willing to try."