Back-to-school: Districts develop plans to keep kids and staff safe

UPPER DARBY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- It's a challenge Superintendents throughout the state are facing. Where a student would normally sit for instruction, desks are now marked as a spacer for social distancing.

"In a classroom like this, you're looking at six-feet," said Superintendant Dr. Daniel McGarry of the Upper Darby School District. "You're going from 25-30 students down to about 11 students at a time."

Each district must submit their plan to the state by the end of July, for how to bring kids back to school safely.

"It really almost makes it impossible for school superintendents to figure this out without clear direct guidance," said McGarry.

After researching with doctors and as many medical journals as possible, McGarry and his team at Upper Darby School District have developed numerous scenarios for the start of the school year.

Options include:

  • Students in small groups with morning and afternoon shifts, four days a week.

  • Full day instruction two days a week rotating, with online learning supplement

  • Completely virtual classes for students who do not want to return to the building

  • All students reporting back as normal

Even desk spacing could vary from three- to six- feet depending on classroom and class size.

The reviews from parents who have participated in surveys to pick a best-case scenario for their family are mixed.

"It's like thirds 28 percent want to come back with one of the scenarios, 25 percent want to come back with a cohort and full-day vs. the AM/PM and another 20-some percent want to come back completely," says Dr. McGarry.

Masks will be provided for students and staff.

"We would encourage mask-wearing but we wouldn't force it because it would lead to disciplinary issues," said Dr. McGarry.

Nothing is set in stone yet. Upper Darby is asking for parents input in a survey put out this week as well.

Because there is no concrete directive coming from the state Department of Health or Education, back-to-school may look very different depending on which district school your child attends.
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