Change in Plan: Radnor students to return to school 9/29


RTSD K-12 Plan for Returning to School

Sammy Rosin, Currents Associate Editor

Grab your backpacks and your masks, Radnor Students, we are going back to school . . . In-Person. The Radnor Township School Board decided on September 22, 2020, that the best plan is for students to return to school in person starting September 29th. Radnor Township believes the case count is low enough for students to safely return to school in person, and it is now time to implement Phase Two. Now, more than ever, students, teachers, and parents must be adaptable and flexible. 

When the school year began, the original plan was for virtual learning to continue until at least October 9. This decision was made in Mid-August after the positive case numbers were rising throughout July, with a 6.5 % percent positivity rate. The standard for school districts to be considered low risk is under 5% positivity rate. In addition, health officials warned the administration and board members of a possible spike in cases due to Labor Day gatherings and people returning from summer vacations. 

As a third factor, the Chester County Health Department asked school districts to consider their readiness for re-opening. Superintendent Batchelor explained at the September 22 meeting, “ We felt confident that we had the third piece. That we were ready for our students to come in.” The health officials advised, though, the school district would achieve the best results if in-person learning did not begin until the case numbers were as low as possible.  

The latest metrics have come in, though, and the numbers are encouraging. With community transmission under 5%, “low risk” according to the  Chester County Health Department, Mr. Batchelor explains, “ We have a window now.” We are two weeks from Labor Day and the end of summer and there has been no alarming spike in Covid cases. These new metrics prompted Mr.Batchelor and the Radnor administration to suggest a plan that all students K-12 will begin returning to school starting Tuesday, September 29, 2020. The return will be staggered but still quick, with all students grades K-12  returning by Friday, October 2, 2020. Sixth and ninth grade will return first because these students are transitioning to a new building.  Seniors will also return on the first day so that they can serve as role models for the younger grades. At the elementary school level, Grades K-2 will also return to in-person learning on Tuesday, since teachers find that age group the hardest to instruct in the virtual setting. The week of September 29-October 2 will include a mix of an in-person half-day, a completely online day, a fully asynchronous day, and full days in-person for grades 6-12.

 The plan remains for students to return to the hybrid model by cohorts, with A and B cohorts in person on alternating days. Each grade is divided by last name: A-K will make up Cohort A,  and L-Z will make up Cohort B. 

As can be expected, school will look drastically different this year. The school district has implemented new routines and reorganized the buildings to maximize student and teacher health and safety. Each day before school, every student will have to go through an online Covid-19 screening process by answering a questionnaire on their iPhone. Students who pass the screening test will receive a green screen and be able to attend school, while those who don’t will receive a red screen and cannot attend school. The Radnor schools will receive reports of who passed and failed, so they can ensure that students who did not pass do not come to school. 

Once at school, students are required to wear masks, and desks have been placed 6ft apart in each classroom. The teachers’ desks are all equipped with a large plexiglass shield. Students at home will follow along with whatever the teacher is screen sharing on the Smartboard for the students in person. Secondary students are able to eat lunch in the cafeteria, blackbox, back gym, and outside, but not around the hallways or in other locations. Socially distanced seating will be marked. Each teacher will have some discretion as to how they manage their hybrid classroom. If they would like, the teacher can wear a face shield and walk around the classroom, or they can remain behind their plexiglass shield. In many classes, breakout rooms on Zoom are also still an option for students to work in groups on their days at home.

For now, there is no evident date for when all students can return in person together. Radnor’s obstacle is the six feet social distancing guideline. The school district could bring the majority of students back in-person with four feet distancing, but health officials still stress the importance of six-feet. The case numbers are constantly being re-evaluated and plans may continue to shift, but starting Monday, Radnor is taking a bold step and bringing students and teachers back together in person.