“We’re trying to keep it as normal as possible, with modifications,” said Eileen Rishcoff, principal of Wyoming Area Catholic School in Exeter.
As the traditional back-to-school season approaches, public school districts and private, Catholic schools run by the Diocese of Scranton, have worked on plans to continue schooling safely during the coronavirus pandemic. Some will go with all-virtual instruction, while others plan to offer parents an option of in-person or virtual classes.
Students in the Wyoming Area School District will attend school virtually for the first marking period, the district announced on Aug. 13. This is a change from just a few weeks ago when the district originally announced it would separate the students into two groups with each group attending classes alternating days in order to allow for greater social distancing. The district even invested in more than 2,600 individual desk shields to help separate the students, prior to making the decision to move all classes online.
Some special education classes will return for in-person instruction, secretary to the superintendent Jean Marie Radle said in a statement, but all other students and teachers will work over Google Classroom. The district will provide Chromebooks to all students.
Radle stated any updates will be posted on the Wyoming Area website and parents or students can contact their building principals with any questions.
Wyoming Area’s school year will begin on Sept. 8, according to the district’s website.
In July, The Citizens’ Voice reported Pittston Area School District’s plans to have younger students return to school for in-person classes five days a week, while older students, in grades seven through 12, will be split into groups with half the students attending in-person instruction Mondays and Thursdays and the other group attending classes Tuesdays and Fridays. The students will continue online instruction on the days they aren’t physically in class.
A cyber program also is available to all Pittston Area students who prefer fully remote learning.
“Our younger students have a great deal of difficulty with the virtual platforms,” Superintendent Kevin Booth said at a school board meeting July 28. “We also understand that childcare is a big concern for many of our parents, and we are going to provide for our students to be here five days a week.”
He added Pittston Area is going to limit class size to 15 to 18 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“We feel 15 to 18 students can be spaced out in a classroom with our social distancing guidelines,” he said.
Calls to the superintendent’s office for further details this week were not returned.
Wyoming Area Catholic
As part of the Diocese of Scranton, Wyoming Area Catholic will allow students the option of enrolling in the Diocesan Virtual Academy for the first marking period, Rishcoff said, but in-person instruction will still take place at the school five days per week.
Students and staff will be required to wear masks throughout the day, with outdoor “mask breaks” in the morning and afternoon for students.
Rishcoff said the school will limit passing in the hallways by having students remain in their homerooms for the majority of the day.
The school also will modify the uniform policy to allow students to wear school polos and khaki shorts instead of the more formal uniforms, in order to encourage parents to regularly clean uniforms.
Rishcoff said the school has been thoroughly sanitized and will be sanitized daily.
“Our teachers are here every day getting ready,” Rishcoff said. “I think all of our families are on board.”
Rishcoff said the teachers have worked tirelessly to find ways to enforce social distancing and safety within the classrooms.
“It’s all about the safety of the students,”
If a student chooses to enroll in virtual learning, they will still be considered a Wyoming Area Catholic student in the eyes of the diocese, Rishcoff said.
Holy Rosary School in Duryea is also preparing for in-person instruction, with the option for parents to enroll their children in the Diocesan Virtual Academy if they feel more comfortable not having their children return for in-person classes.
“We are all very anxious and excited to get started,” principal Melissa Skutack said. “I’m sure the students are as well.”
Skutack said Holy Rosary’s Safety and Planning Team has decided that all students, staff and faculty will have their temperature taken before entering the school building every day. Hand sanitizing stations are available at the entrance to all classrooms, offices and the cafeteria, and the halls have been outfitted with colorful tape and markers to enforce social distancing guidelines.
Students will stay in their single homerooms throughout the day and teachers will switch per subject, Skutack said. Students can leave for outdoor mask breaks and to eat lunch in the cafeteria. Skutack noted the addition of an extra lunch period will allow students to gather in the cafeteria safely.
“Everyone would like to get back to a normal school year,” she said. “Whatever the new normal is.”