A Message from Dr. Wheeler

  • As our 10th week of in-person learning comes to a close, we want to thank our faculty, staff and community for your courtesy and grace as we developed our programs and processes in these unprecedented times.  While we have had our challenges and setbacks we appreciate the feedback and conversations as they have helped us reframe our work. 

    Based on our actual experiences to date, our feedback from our faculty and staff and from members of our community we want to provide an update on two specific items we plan to recommend to the school board Monday evening.

    Extension of the 4-Day School Week:  As the positivity rate and number of Coronavirus cases spike both regionally and nationally, we have been fortunate that our 4-day week instructional model has provided the opportunity for us to both keep our in-person functional without temporary closures. While simultaneously work through the technical issues with our Blended Learning Program.  We could not be more proud of the work our faculty, staff, and administration, and the diligence and focus our kids show when in school.

    As a result, we are recommending the extension of the 4-day school week through January 29, 2021.  This recommendation:

    • Recognizes the potential for a challenging winter with a mix of the Coronavirus case increases and the onset of flu season.
    • Continues to protect our fragile ecosystem which to date has shown strong performance both in terms of district-wide attendance and student growth and achievement.
    • Our virtual Fridays for in-person learning, after several glitches in the first week of implementation has shown to be an effective learning environment, allowing many of our teachers to use technology to add technology-based teaching and learning to their curriculum.

    As a time-sensitive recommendation, we will make this recommendation on November 2, 2020 asking for board approval on November 2, 2020.  This is to allow families and our community time to adjust to our extended schedule.

    Administrative Structure:  In order to ensure a safe and productive school environment and to improve the daily management of both our in-person and Blended Online program we are recommending making the following administrative assignments permanent.

    • Kim Honabach:  Memorial Elementary Principal/Federal Programs Coordinator

     

    • Michelle Prybyla:  WW Evans Principal/Cooperative Education Program Coordinator

     

    • Josh Tabor:  Beaver- Main Elementary Principal/PIMS Coordinator

     

    • Melissa Day: Director of Curriculum

     

    These shifts provide each of our buildings with a permanent and daily presence, which we believe is essential in these unprecedented times, even beyond the pandemic, while also allowing us to continue our important and innovate K-12+ programming work.

    Consistent with our traditional practice, we will make this recommendation on November 2, 2020 asking for board approval on November 16, 2020. 

    Thank you again for your courtesy and grace as we work together in these challenging and unprecedented times.

    Dr. Donald Wheeler

  • 9.8.20 Update

    Posted by Donald Wheeler on 9/8/2020 11:30:00 AM

    September 8, 2020

    We just concluded our weekly meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Department of Health (DOH) in which the conversations of fully remote instruction were discussed.  During this meeting I shared that our plan is to remain with our current four-day a week schedule through October 2, 2020 as we continue to monitor the COVID-19 cases in our immediate area. Given our high virtual program enrollment, our adherence our health and safety plan and the strong need many of our families have for us to remain in session, we feel confident in our plan to remain on our current schedule.

    As many of you know, Southern Columbia started a two-week hybrid schedule today. Danville Area announced the same shift late last night. Berwick started the year in hybrid at the middle and high school levels. Others in our area may move to hybrid or fully remote soon.  It is important to note, we are at a point where we need to strongly consider maintaining the 4-day a week schedule at least through Thanksgiving, if not the first semester.  

    I feel this way for several reasons:

    1. Our current plan is working.  We have made shifts in our arrival and dismissal times, mask break schedules, staggered starts and programming.  By attending school four days in a row and then using the 5th day to plan, enrich and remediate while our kids complete work at home, we have the mental, physical, and emotional opportunity to both establish a routine in school while recovering and planning for the following week.  As we add sports and other extra-curricular activities, this need for recovery will become extenuated for all.
    2. We have a fragile ecosystem.   The exponential increase in our Blended program enrollment has been a significant benefit for our ability to maintain our current in-person schedule.  Every benefit has a downside. Ours is that our staffing model is taxed to its maximum flexibility and with the need to assign support teachers to direct instruction, our ability to cover staff absences in critically low.  If our current system is working better than we could have anticipated, it seems logical to maintain it the best we can as it is.  My greatest fear is that by increasing the demand on our people, our schedules, and our systems, this may push us to the point of breaking as our faculty, staff, and students become sick and/or exhausted.
    3. In-Person 4 days is better than at-home 5 days.  As the schools around us who tried to operate on a 5-day schedule shift to hybrid and some ultimately move to fully remote learning, we may be best served by a cautious and balanced approach to extend our time together in session within our current schedule.  Otherwise, by default, we are likely choosing an all or nothing approach, which does not serve our kids, our faculty and staff or our community well should we be forced to close.  In the end, 4-days a week seem more effective for our kids, our community, and our teachers than multiple shifts to varying schedules, or ultimately fully remote learning.

     Why Fridays? 

      • Our kids have an opportunity to establish a system and routine for the week.  Our Health and Safety Plan is working and our current student enrollment puts near the ideal 60% capacity for research-based hybrid learning.
      • Our community, who relies on our schools, can better plan at work for students being home. While we acknowledge that having Fridays off is inconvenient, Wednesdays do not allow for structure and routines to take hold.
      • Our teachers have the opportunity to plan, provide guided practice for students on pace, and remediation for students who fall behind or who have had extended absences
    1. We need the opportunity to implement our virtual learning model.  For us to avoid the mistakes and glitches that we experienced with Accelerate and our virtual program with our Blackboard program and fully remote in-person teaching, we should plan 'virtual days” during which we pilot our systems and schedules, working out the glitches and kinks the best we can prior to needing the system in the winter or spring.  Experiencing at-home learning when we can get back together on Monday to recalibrate would be an exponential benefit.   Beyond compliance, our goal has to be the first-class teaching and learning that is our calling card!

    Our goal is to provide you with as much context and background as we can, so that there is an opportunity to provide feedback, thoughts, and suggestions as we move forward.  In times like these when virtually every decision is written in pencil, our conversations and our processes become critical to our shared work and goals.

     

    Thank you.

    Dr. Donald Wheeler

    Comments (-1)
  • 9.7.20 Update

    Posted by Donald Wheeler on 9/7/2020 8:05:00 PM

    As of September 7, 2020, the Bloomsburg Area School District has received notification from the Department of Health regarding one positive case of Covid-19. Since our notification from the Department of Health regarding this one positive case on August 28th we have not received notification from the Department of Health regarding additional positive tests.   We will plan to provide a Covid-19 Status update at least once weekly.

    The Department of Health notifies the school district through its contact tracing protocols.  Once we are notified we follow the follow steps all in the same day of the notification from the DOH:

    1. Notify any faculty, staff, the parents of any students involved in the contact tracing along with the school board of the Department of Health notification.   
    2. Notify any impacted students and our general faculty and staff population.  If the students are in school, we will follow the guidance of DOH and/or our health professionals regarding quarantine.
    3. Upon the completion of #1 and #2 above we will post an update on our website and send a one-call notification.

    We are grateful for the calls from parents and caregivers with updates on student health including the results of Covid-19 tests.   The diligence of these parents in keeping students’ home when that are feeling ill, along with the consistent adherence of all of our faculty, staff, and students reflect a compassion and respect for each other and for our community.

    Out of respect for the privacy of our families and our students along with guidance set forth by PDE and DOH, the Bloomsburg Area School District will report those cases brought to us by the Department of Health requiring contact tracing and potential quarantine in our schools.  In our experience thus far, the Department of Health has been thorough and detailed with their notifications to us.  As we are all in this together, it is essential that as a school District, we allow the Department of Health be the determining factor in Covid-19 decisions.  While we appreciate some would like an update on every phone call we receive, this is neither legally nor ethically our information to publicize.

    As a District in a community experiencing Covid-19 substantial risk status it is essential to acknowledge and commend our faculty, staff, and students for their consistent adherence to our Health and Safety Plan. Through continued focus and a shard sense of the common good, we will not only survive these challenging times, but become better for them.

    Comments (-1)
  • 8.31.20 Update

    Posted by Donald Wheeler on 8/31/2020 10:10:00 AM

    Later today, Columbia County will be classified as “Substantial Risk” by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  This morning PDE Deputy Secretary Matt Stem and his team and leaders from the Department of Health hosted a virtual meeting for all of the Superintendents in Columbia County.   The PDE recommendation for schools in our county is to reduce class sizes and follow all virus prevention protocols currently in place.  Our faculty, staff, and students should be commended for the diligence and consistency which they modeled safe and healthy best practice behavior last week.  We look forward to continued focus on proper practice every day and each week so that we can remain in session. It is hard to express in the written word how well everyone on campus managed with our new systems, processes and structures.  The guidance of Mr. Stem and his team was more than helpful and we appreciate PDE reaching out.

     

    Conclusion:  BASD will remain open even though our County is moving to Substantial Risk

     

    District Instructional Model, Enrollment, and Bloomsburg Blended

     

    Over the week prior to the start of the school year we saw a significant increase in the percentage of Bloomsburg Area School District Students enroll in Bloomsburg Blended, our virtual learning option.  We are grateful to our families who are able to support this virtual learning option for their children, because with the increase of Bloomsburg Blended Student Enrollment, we have been able to achieve the socially distanced classrooms and community spaces necessary to comply with the PDE recommendation of reduced class size and following virus protocols. With our reduced class sizes and socially distanced classrooms, it is our full intention to keep our students on campus, especially in K-8. 

     

    As of today, our current District enrollment is 1594 students.  This is a significant increase over the 1482 for the start of school last year, which is a testament to the value and strength of our schools and the great work our town and county are doing to revitalize our community.   Of those 1594 students, 413 are currently enrolled in our Bloomsburg Blended, which reflects just under 26% of our total population.

     

    Bloomsburg Blended Enrollment By Grade

     

    Grade

    Enroll

     

    Grade

    Enroll

    K

    29

     

    7

    39

    1

    39

     

    8

    33

    2

    27

     

    9

    32

    3

    27

     

    10

    33

    4

    34

     

    11

    25

    5

    30

     

    12

    29

    6

    36

     

     Total

    413

     

    Conclusion:  Given the number of students in of Bloomsburg Blended program, we are operating in Blended Status as recommended by PDE and the DOH today.  The Department of Health does reserve the right to require additional action but does not plan to do so at this time.

     

    Community Spread

     

    In our virtual meeting with the Pennsylvania DOH and PDE it was pointed out that the majority of cases in Columbia County are in the 19-24 age range as we might anticipate given the news coverage of Bloomsburg University.  However, it was also pointed out that a significant portion of the positive tests did not have direct relationship with the University and that it is essential that we as a community keep the vigilance and focus we have for several months.  Put simply, if we want to remain in school, which we do very much, as a community we need to follow safety protocols.  As educators, we understand Bloomsburg University wanting to have students on campus and we recognize the value the University brings to our community in general and our schools specifically. 

     

    Conclusion:  Substantial Risk in Columbia County is more than the University.  Please wear your mask, social distance, and wash your hands regularly.

     

    Comments (-1)
  • 8.28.20 Update

    Posted by Donald Wheeler on 8/28/2020 5:05:00 PM

    Good afternoon,

    This morning, we received notice from the Department of Health of 1 positive Covid-19 case for a BASD High School student.  Our health professionals worked with the Department of Health to complete contact tracing of our school community. The faculty, staff, students and their families who meet the DOH criteria for exposure have been contacted and informed that they will need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

    We are grateful to our faculty, staff and students for their diligence and focus on following our Health and Safety Plan throughout our first week of school.  We appreciate the support of the Department of Health with their rapid and detailed guidance with contact tracing and quarantine. 

    In these challenging and unprecedented times, it is reassuring to know that our systems, structures, and plans are effective in practice.  We look forward to our continued work with our faculty, staff, students and our community partners to provide as safe and as effective a learning environment as possible.

    Please understand we will not publicly make comments on communicable disease related cases until we have attempted to contact those directly impacted. 

    Please note, school will be in session for all buildings and all schedules on Monday August 31, 2020.

    Thank you.

    Comments (-1)

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