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Opinion: Schools must forge ahead and be smart

School administrators and board members across the region are faced with critically important decisions as they figure out how to safely reopen schools this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

School is set to start in many area districts in just weeks.

And yet the information coming from state officials to districts throughout the state changes often.

The latest came this past week when the state “recommended” how schools should reopen based on the county in which the district is situated.

Meanwhile, plans have been made, though will change based on the latest from Harrisburg.

State officials need to recognize that local school officials have not had the luxury of waiting for instruction from the state.

They are obligated to move ahead with continuing the education of what we hope will become well-informed, smart adults capable of leading our future.

In other words, they realize how important it is to refocus our children’s minds in ways that support their development and growth — without further delay.

Children are like sponges; they soak up knowledge.

We as a society cannot allow the sponge to go dry.

At the same time, safety is vital.

We must proceed with extreme caution and still get the schools open.

There are options: Keep high schoolers at home to learn and put younger students in school on rotating days and have them use space dedicated to the secondary students in order to social distance?

Of all of the plans that are out there, we believe hybrid models present a good, starting option, though we recognize that for many parents, having children at home during the day — especially young ones — and finding flexible and affordable daycare is a huge (and for some impossible) challenge.

Most parents work.

They need to in order to sustain their families.

Did you see the survey results of parents in the local Keystone Central School District?

The survey ended July 30 and the results were: 67.9 percent selected traditional in-classroom instruction; 14.7 percent selected the learn at home (remote) option with KCSD curriculum; 12.7 percent selected the learn at home virtual academy; 4.7 percent chose the hybrid option — a combination of in-school and online.

Nearly 47 percent do not plan to use district transportation, while 53.5 percent will use district transportation.

Keystone received 3,254 responses out of approximately 3,700 students and families.

Kudos to those parents who participated!

The results came just before Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Health Department issued their latest recommendations on school reopening.

If a large majority of parents want their kids in school and those districts are in “low” virus-impacted areas, we support that — of course with precautions.

School hybrid models, meanwhile, provide in-class instruction two days a week for half of the students and then two days a week for the other half. On days that students are at home, they are to work independently on reading and other assignments, some with take-home materials.

This model does not require internet capability or remote instruction, a problem in areas without broadband.

The caveat is that when students return to the classroom, they must adhere to the protocol of social distancing, masks and hand-washing.

And if they get sick, they must stay home.

If a student gets the virus, every step to contact trace and quarantine must be taken.

Parents really hold the prime responsibility for keeping their kids safe and should be afforded the opportunity to make the case for keeping their child at home for legitimate reasons.

What’s the best solution?

Forging ahead while being exceedingly diligent and smart about every student, every teacher, every staff member, every classroom and every day.

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