TROY — Troy Area School District officials are hoping to return to classrooms as normally as possible come fall, but are preparing for multiple possible curveballs COVID-19 could throw at the district.
Earlier this month the Troy Area School District Board of Education approved a Health and Safety Plan detailing what the district’s reopening could look like come Aug. 21, Troy’s scheduled first day.
In a video posted to the district’s web page updating parents on the reopening plans, Troy Area School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Stair stated that the school plans to welcome in the 2020-2021 school year as normally as possible.
“We feel that by having students inside the classroom with their teachers, is the best way to ensure they are getting the best possible educational experience that we can provide for them,” Stair said.
While he called a full return to face-to-face education the “best option,” Stair shared that the district is also preparing plans to provide virtual education if necessary and said that will include internet “hot spots” set up throughout the district for students who may not have internet access, and daily graded schooling.
Stair stated that the Troy Virtual Academy is also available for parents who do not wish to send their children to brick and mortar schools this year and told that the fully online option will be overseen by a Troy educator.
In the district’s Health and Safety Plan, it outlines changes that will be made in order to promote safety and stop the spread of COVID-19, including classrooms being arranged to allow for the “maximum extent” of social distancing possible, specifically developed student transitions and groupings to limit the number of individuals students and staff come into contact with on a daily basis and procedures developed to ensure social distancing in communal spaces including gyms, bathrooms and lunchrooms.
Troy Transportation Director Bonnie Bixby stated that currently the district plans to bus students in using normally established routes, only allowing two students per seat and requiring masks to be worn at all times.
As per mandates required of schools by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Troy will also provide increased sanitizing of district buildings and buses, hand sanitizer stations in every room and throughout the building, limitations of visitors and volunteers to district buildings and social distancing and safety training as well as daily temperature checks.
Masks will be required any time students and staff can not maintain six feet of social distancing.
Stair stated that the district will take steps to make mandated mask wearing an experience that is as positive as possible for students through encouragement and even fun “challenges.”
During the district meeting, Troy Intermediate School Assistant Principal John Imbt shared results from an online poll created by the district to gain feedback from parents.
Out of 483 parent responses representing 760 students, 125 parents stated that they will not send their students back to school with COVID-19 restrictions while 300 stated they will utilize district transportation — leaving a “significant number” less than usual that will not need transportation.
Just over three-fifths of parents indicated they did not want their student to have to use “district issued” masks.
Hybrid schooling options like a split schedule that would bring students to the classroom only part of the week or every other week showed similar percentages of preferences, according to Imbt.
A total of 358 parents stated that they will enroll their students in Troy while 49 parents said they will enroll in Troy Virtual Academy this year and 76 indicated that they will choose another option for schooling, which board member Darren Roy said would “bankrupt” the district if even half of those families elect charter school.
Twenty percent of parents indicated that they do not have reliable internet connection.
Imbt stated that Troy Virtual Academy will have a flexible schedule as the school district understands that parents with especially younger students may need to work around child care options.
“I’m hoping that people realize that the school districts are going to be receiving information and there will be things that we may or may not get to choose so it’s important to recognize that yes there are going to be things that we can decide to do but a lot of it I feel like we are not going to be able to be the entity making that final ultimate decision about some of these things,” Imbt said.
Stair reminded the community that the Health and Safety Plan is a “living and breathing document” that will change if state mandates continue to change.