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Quakertown School Board Continues Plans to Reopen Schools
Written by Jennifer Butler, Correspondent

            As the Quakertown Community School District continues moving forward with plans for K-12 in-person instruction, ensuring classroom coverage was the primary focus of a special board meeting last Thursday.

            The board voted to increase the per diem substitute teacher rate from $105 to $120. Compensation for long-term substitutes will increase from $140 to $175.

            The district has needed an average of 19 substitute teachers per day so far this school year compared to 11 per day in the fall of 2019.

            Board President Kaylyn Mitchell noted that more teachers retired than anticipated in the 2020 budget process, allowing for the pay increase.          

            District Chief Operating Officer Zachary Schoch cautioned that the per diem increase may not entirely solve the staffing shortage.

            Superintendent William Harner presented a school reopening update to the board, including options for staffing virtual and in-person instruction. While no board action was taken on the plan, staffing options as presented prompted public comment concerns from teachers and some parents.

            "I am begging you this evening to not agree to the recommendation as it is presented because it does nothing to relieve the workload that we have told you is unsustainable nor helps to create a working environment that our staff feels safer working in," said Quakertown Community Education Association president Ryan Wieand in a previously submitted comment read aloud at the beginning of the meeting.

            Harner's full presentation, including options to outsource virtual learning, is available on the school district website.

            Mitchell noted that, due to time constraints, not all public comment was read during the meeting but all would be included in the meeting minutes.

            "I am blown away by how above and beyond our teachers have gone," Mitchell said in response to staff concerns.

            "We will need to brainstorm and figure out a way to support our teachers through this but we also acknowledge the pleas from parents who are begging us to get their kids back in school. They are seeing their children struggle academically and mentally."

            Full-day in-person instruction was scheduled to resume for students in grades K-5 on Monday October 12. Virtual instruction through the district remains an option.

            Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards presented a plan Thursday night for resumption of in-person instruction for grades 6-12. Last month, the board approved a change to the health and safety plan to allow social distancing below the 6-foot CDC recommendation when necessary.

            Mitchell noted that CDC guidelines have been revised several times and lean in favor of reopening schools.

            After the discussion, the board voted to reopen grades 6-12 for in-person instruction with a shortened school day and a virtual option. The date this plan will go in to effect is November 18.

            Director Brian Reimers was the sole vote in opposition to the reopening plan.

            The board also voted Thursday night for two revisions to the district's health and safety plan. One change allows for spectator seating at Alumni Field and the high school gym at 20% capacity, based upon Governor Wolf's recommendations.

            Another change to the plan will permit use of district playground equipment during the school day with administrative oversight.

            Edwards explained that the change will allow elementary students to have more chances to play during recess.

            "We want them to be able to have more options when they are outside and we believe we can do that safely," Edwards commented.





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