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UPSD Board Approves New In-person Educational Model
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Students in the Upper Perkiomen School District will have the opportunity to attend extended in-person learning early next month. Last week, the school board voted to adopt a new educational model.

            Beginning Tuesday, April 6, students will be permitted to attend all brick and mortar schools in the district four days a week. The members approved an action item on March 11 to accept the recommendation by district administrators.

            According to Superintendent Allyn Roche, the move is intended to increase the amount of in-person learning time for students. He said he did not consider it a return to normal.

            "It's extremely important to me that we make sure to finish the school year as strong as possible," the superintendent said.

            The district will continue to enforce its mitigation efforts, which Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina described as significant. She said current quarantine and exclusion requirements will also be maintained. "We've got lots of methods to shorten the quarantine period," Farina said.

            Decreasing positivity rates in Montgomery and Berks counties allowed the district to contemplate the change, according to Roche. As of March 5, Montgomery County has remained in the moderate range for five consecutive weeks.

           "We're definitely not where we were six months ago," Member Judith Maginnis said prior to the vote.

            Under the new model, administrators can no longer guarantee six feet of social distancing between students – as recommended by county and state health officials – in certain situations, such as the cafeteria, transportation and unique instructional settings, such as a lab environment, according to Roche. He said the teachers would do their best to maintain that distance generally.

            Administrators chose to start the new model on the first day after Spring Break in order to make sure a majority of its staff would be protected from COVID-19. After March 17, more than 92 percent of the district's staff members and contractors will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

            According to an email received Tuesday afternoon from district spokesperson Nicole Gum, 463 out of 502 will be fully or partially vaccinated, or have declined the opportunity to get vaccinated. Roche said he would declare Thursday, March 18 a fully virtual day so several of the district's bus drivers could receive the vaccine.

            The district will maintain a 100 percent virtual learning program for each of its schools. Roche identified March 18 as the final day for parents to declare a desire to register their children for in-person learning.

            Member Raeann Hofkin voted against the motion. Prior to the vote, she suggested allowing the students to return to in-person learning five days a week.

            "It's time to rip off the band-aid," Hofkin said prior to the vote. "What are we waiting for?"

            A survey presented by the superintendent found that 397 of 502 applicants (79.1 percent) have already received partial or full vaccinations or expressed an interest in receiving one. The survey states that 175 have already received the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination designated for school employees by Gov. Tom Wolfe. According to Roche, 41 of those doses have been set aside for district employees. He said those shots could be implemented on March 29.






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