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Avonworth School District News Article

Update on Educational Models - October 13, 2020

Avonworth School District

Second Quarter Model Announcement

October 13, 2020

October 12, 2020 Presentation with Survey Data and Model Recommendations

 Dear Avonworth School Community,

At last evening’s School Board meeting, models were presented to our Board members regarding our administration’s recommendation for educational models to implement in the second quarter of the 2020-2021 school year.  The recommendation of the models for K-6 and 7-12 was created after considering input from the recent parent/guardian survey (survey data is attached), our current local data regarding COVID case trends, as well as ongoing communication with health officials at the Allegheny County Health Department.  


The decision to recommend any educational model during this pandemic is taken very seriously.  I am very aware that members of our school community have opinions on both sides of these decisions and that no decision will come without criticism.  The two guiding principles considered with any decision regarding our educational models are providing the best education possible and the health and safety of students and staff.  Unfortunately, with every guiding principle and effort made during this time, the words “to the extent possible” must follow.  Our administration, staff, and Board members care deeply about all of our students and we continue to do the best we can for them during this challenging time.  


For our K-6 students, it was recommended and our Board approved that we maintain the current hybrid model as we enter the second nine-weeks. For our 7-12 students, it was recommended and our Board approved to bring our 7-12 students back four days a week and also to move the start time of their school day up approximately one hour from where it is currently.  


Many factors were considered in making these recommendations. A key educational factor driving decision-making on the K-6 campus is the importance of students receiving daily, in-person reading and math instruction.  This is occurring on our K-6 campus in the current hybrid model.  Additionally, a change to full, in-person instruction on the K-6 campus requires the implementation of lunch and recess, which is not occurring currently. Although we know distancing is not possible with a full return of students to our buildings, we want to plan to allow for distancing, to the extent possible.  Additionally, moving from the hybrid model to full, in-person instruction presents staffing challenges for food service, transportation, and instruction (in-person and virtual academy).  We also took into consideration that parents/guardians of students at the Elementary Campus were split on the recent survey for maintaining the current model (51.8%) vs. planning to return as soon as possible (48.2%).  Additionally, 76.9% of K-6 parents/guardians indicated that at this point in the nine-weeks they are satisfied with their child’s current educational model.  


On the secondary campus, our teachers have been working extremely hard to deliver instruction to three groups of students.  They are teaching hybrid students in person, hybrid students learning at home, and students in the Avonworth Virtual Academy.  Although our teachers are doing a tremendous job, we recognize the challenges of having only a limited amount of in-person instruction possible in this hybrid model.  We also recognize the importance of maintaining the Avonworth Virtual Academy.  In the current 7-12 hybrid model the late start and no students in the building on Wednesday is a key component necessary for the planning and delivery of instruction in the Avonworth Virtual Academy.  In the recent survey, 63.5% of parents/guardians indicated that they are satisfied with their child’s current educational model.  Additionally, 59.8% indicated a preference for returning to full, in-person instruction as soon as possible vs. 40.2% preferring to maintain the current model.


It is our desire to return all students to full, in-person instruction. During the second quarter, we will be planning for a full return of our K-6 students at the start of the third nine-weeks.  We will also continue our planning for returning our 7-12 students to full, in-person instruction. For both K-6 and 7-12, we also plan to maintain the Avonworth Virtual Academy, which plays a major role in the decision and planning process as we plan to bring all students back for full, in-person instruction.  Please know that our desire is the same as yours.  We want all of our students back in our schools and we will continue our planning to ensure this happens as soon as possible and as long as circumstances will allow.  The situation with COVID-19 has been fluid since this began in March and we anticipate it will continue to require us to be flexible and adaptable moving forward. 


A question we have received is why other districts are able to return to full, in-person instruction and why Avonworth is not at this time.  It is important to understand that factors, variables, and resources for each school district vary.  Every district has a unique set of circumstances that create restrictions and/or opportunities regarding the educational models they are able to implement.  It is true that some districts have begun to bring students back while others are only now beginning to move from a virtual to hybrid model.  We will continue to focus on the information we have available for Avonworth and make the most informed decisions possible for our students and staff.  


I want to reiterate how much I value you, your input, and your support.  I understand and respect the difference of opinion that has been shared.  It goes without saying that this situation is not ideal and that we all want to get back to having all students attending school every day.  In the last six months, we have faced the most historic disruption to education in our history.  Working together, we will overcome this challenge and will be stronger because of it. 


The presentation that I made at Monday evening’s Board meeting includes a summary of the data from the recent parent survey and is attached for your review.  


Thank you for your time!

With kindest regards,

Thomas W. Ralston

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