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Superintendents unsurprised by indefinite closures

The consensus of local school superintendents, contacted following the announcement by Gov. Tom Wolf that schools in the state would be closed until further notice, was that it was not a surprise.

Many of them acknowledged that their districts have been preparing and planning for this eventuality.

“I don’t think anyone expected to come back on the ninth,” Dr. Mark Stamm, superintendent of the South Williamsport Area School District said.

He said his district had already been planning beyond that date.

In a statement released following the governor’s announcement, Dr. Timothy S. Bowers, district superintendent of the Williamsport Area School District, said that the district understands the governor’s position in closing schools indefinitely. Like many districts Williamsport has been making plans to move forward.

“We’ve been working on developing a continuity of education plan to keep our students moving forward and we’re preparing to launch a virtual learning program on April 13,” Bowers said.

He added that in the next few weeks the district will be sharing details on what the process will be for implementing the program.

Gerald McLaughlin, superintendent of the Loyalsock Township School District, said that he definitely supports the governor’s decision to extend the school shutdown due to the spread of COVID-19.

“First of all, the safety of the students and families is the most important,” McLaughlin said, a sentiment echoed by Michael Pawlik, superintendent of East Lycoming School District.

“The governor is taking the precautions necessary to keep residents in the state safe,” Pawlik said.

Both East Lycoming and Loyalsock Township began some type of remote learning for their some of their students Monday.

At East Lycoming, students were introduced to the online platform last week with a normal schedule of classes beginning Monday. Pawlik acknowledged that there are some issues with lack of internet connectivity, but that students who have difficulty can call into instructional sessions by telephone.

He praised his staff for stepping up and doing everything that had been asked of them in order to make the process work.

Loyalsock Township also began offering online learning to their high school students on Monday. According to McLaughlin, this action was part of their planned instruction which will be instituted in the next two weeks in the middle school. At the end of last week, students in K-5 picked up packets for the first two weeks of planned instruction of enrichment and review.

Dr. Ken Dady, assistant superintendent for Jersey Shore Area School District, said that he also was not surprised that the closure was extended given that the curve of infections from the coronavirus had not peaked in the state yet. He added that the district has been “planning for the potential of not coming back at all.”

At the present time, both Jersey Shore and South Williamsport are offering students review and enrichment options.

“Our continuity of education falls into the category of enrichment and review,” Dady said, adding that it helps to fill in the gaps in students’ instruction.

For both districts, a lack of technology is a barrier to offering online instruction.

“A lack of decent cell or internet service makes continuity of new learning extremely challenging,” Dady said.

For South Williamsport, the problem is not only internet service, but the lack of devices to use with the internet.

“We have too many barriers with access and devices,” Stamm said.

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