Bucks County’s 13 public school districts, three career and technical centers, and intermediate unit place student and staff safety at the forefront of their efforts.
At the onset of the COVID-related closures in March, through the governor-mandated prohibition of in-person instruction and continuing now as the school year concludes, the teams that support the children of the county work diligently to respond to the shifting variables presented by the pandemic. School leaders meet regularly using teleconferencing technology both in-district and countywide with one another and with Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department, and Scott Forster, director of Bucks County Emergency Services, to plan for a wide variety of scenarios facing our school communities this summer and fall.
As Bucks County transitions to yellow and eventually to green, Bucks County’s public schools will continue to collaboratively develop plans for what school may look like this fall. On June 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released guidelines and possible considerations to guide these local school district planning efforts.
PDE requires that each public school draft a Health and Safety Plan that accounts for student and staff safety through the lens of school operations. It must include what each district will do under a variety of circumstances specific to transportation, class size, and scheduling, to name three topics. While planning will occur at the county level, district-specific plans must be approved by each local board of school directors in advance of any district resuming in-person instruction. Because such planning will require consultation with a number of experts, all public school-based educational instruction that would typically occur during the summer months (such as summer school and extended school year for special education programs) will continue to be conducted virtually.
At this time, all Bucks County public schools plan to return to school in the fall. What that looks like is not yet clear as teaching and learning will continue to evolve and may take on different forms from school-to-school and from district-to-district. As a result of the county’s collaborative planning process, the Health and Safety Plans for each Bucks County’s public schools may contain some common elements. However, due to the differences in considerations like district size, geographic location, school design, graduation requirements, and local board policy, each plan will also be unique.
PDE plans to release additional guidance throughout the summer to help set expectations for the fall of 2020. As these guidelines are released, they will also influence and potentially change local and countywide planning efforts.