With students and staff wearing facemasks, desks spread out as far as possible and even plans to “quarantine” library books when students return them, the 2020-2021 school year will look unlike any other due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
Lebanon County school officials have been looking at every aspect of a typical school day to determine what needs to be changed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Currently, all six districts are planning for at least a partially in-person return to school in late August as scheduled. However, families in many districts will have a choice on whether to send their kids back to the classroom.
In Palmyra, Superintendent Bernie Kepler said during a mid-July school board meeting that giving parents the ability to choose is critical.
“If we force the hand of families, we lose regardless of which direction we go,” Kepler said.
Officials have repeatedly warned that plans could change day-by-day based on the status of COVID-19 in the region and changing state guidelines.
The district reopening plans emphasize maximizing social distancing and minimizing interactions between students. There are still many unanswered questions and outstanding concerns. For example, during board meetings in recent weeks, district officials expressed concern that staffing could become an issue if teachers have to self-isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test or exposure.
While most districts are offering students online learning options, there is a clear desire from families to get kids back in the classroom. In Cornwall-Lebanon, Superintendent Philip Domencic said an “overwhelming majority” of parents surveyed supported a return to in-person schooling, but that more than just school officials and students will need to be on board to make that happen.
“This is a community issue,” Domencic said. “People want us to get back to school and I do believe that people here in Lebanon County, Cornwall-Lebanon are going to work with us to make that happen.”
Here is the most up-to-date information on reopening plans for Lebanon County school districts. Some districts are still in the process of finalizing their plans, and each plan is subject to change.
Lebanon School District
The Lebanon School District board heard an updated version of their plan at their meeting on August 10. Some parts of this section will be updated after the meeting.
Start date: Aug. 31
Schedules: Lebanon School District will reopen in the “yellow phase,” which calls for a hybrid, A/B schedule where students attend two days a week, and attend online learning the other three days. There will be a “soft opening” at the beginning of the school year to get all students used to at-home and in-person learning.
Students also have the option to attend online full-time, or to attend the district-run cyber school.
Masks: Per state guidelines, face masks will be required in district buildings or buses when social distancing is not possible except for those with exemptions.
Students and staff will have regular breaks from wearing a face mask to “reduce the likelihood that face coverings become a distraction to student learning.” Some staff may wear face shields.
Symptom screening: Parents are asked to screen their kids at home each morning and keep them home if they show any symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Staff will also self-screen at home. Temperature screening will not be conducted upon entrance to the school building.
Social distancing: Students and staff will try to maintain “consistent grouping of people,” so elementary students will be taught in “self-contained” classes when possible and secondary school students should be exposed to as few teachers as possible. Different groups should maintain 3feet between them when in common spaces.
Staff are encouraged to find opportunities to use outdoor spaces for learning activities, and classrooms and other learning spaces are being reorganized to maximize social distancing.
Daily schedules will minimize contact between individuals, with staggered hall changes or alternate schedules that reduce the number of class changes being considered.
Teachers will rotate between classes when feasible, with students staying in the same room to minimize students interacting in hallways. The capacity of the cafeteria should be reduced.
Recess and physical education activities will be assessed to maximize social distancing.
Physical changes: The district is putting markers on the floor to promote social distancing and signs around the buildings with health and safety information.
Traditional water fountains will be turned off, and touch-free bottle filler stations will be used instead.
Desks will all face the same way in classrooms.
Cleaning: High-touch points – like doorknobs or faucets – will be cleaned frequently throughout the day, according to the district’s reopening plan. The district will follow CDC guidelines for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.
Instructional spaces will have disinfecting spray and paper towels, and teachers will disinfect desks as needed. Anytime equipment has to be shared between students, it will be cleaned, according to the district plan.
Hand sanitizer will be available in all computer labs, shops and weight rooms, and other places where communal use of equipment takes place.
The district will conduct complete “purges” of the air inside the buildings daily.
Transportation: Students will be required to wear masks on district vehicles, and the seating capacity will be reduced. Two runs of the bus will be made for both pick-up and drop-off of elementary students, according to the plan,
Students will be offered disinfectant wipes to clean their seat. High-touch points will be sprayed after each individual run, and the entire vehicle will be completely disinfected after both the morning and afternoon runs.
Cafeteria: Cafeterias will reduce the number of students normally served at one time to increase social distancing, and students will go through lines by classroom in both the yellow and green phases, and return to eat in their classrooms, though eating in the cafeteria is being considered for the green phase.
Status of the plans: The health and safety plans were approved at the school board meeting in July.
Contingency plans: Anyone who shows symptoms will immediately be sent home to quarantine. The district is requiring parents to have multiple emergency contacts listed who could be available to assist in picking up a child.The school nurse and physician will work together to make decisions for student and staff self-quarantining or isolation.
The decision to let someone return to school after testing positive, or self-quarantining will be made following state and federal guidelines.
Any space a person with COVID-19 was in will be left for 24 hours, if possible, then cleaned and disinfected. If waiting 24 hours isn’t possible, cleaning crews should wear PPE.
ELCO School District
Start date: Aug. 31
Schedules: Elementary students will be fully in-person, with the option to do online, live-streamed learning from an ELCO teacher.
Secondary students will be on hybrid schedules, and will be in school two days of the week, and at-home the other three. At-home learning will be synchronous, with live-streaming from ELCO teachers, with the option to do the synchronous, online learning full-time. The ELCO Virtual Academy is an asynchronous option.
Cleaning: High touch-point areas will be cleaned frequently throughout the day. Buses and playgrounds will be cleaned daily, and bathrooms twice daily. Hand sanitizer will be available in school buildings.
Masks: Under the state order, masks will be required except for those with exemptions. All staff have been given a face shield and mask and disposable face masks will be available.
Symptom screening: Parents are asked to check their kids for symptoms before sending them to school, and staff are asked to self-check themselves for symptoms.
Social distancing: Desks will all be facing the same way in classrooms, with as much space in between as possible. Using outdoor spaces whenever possible is encouraged, and recess will be by individual classrooms under the yellow phase.
Gym classes will be outside when possible and maximize social distancing.
Hallways will be designated one-way if possible for grades 6-12, and students in elementary grades will walk down the right side of the hallway. Dismissal will be by bus number to reduce hallway crowding in elementary schools.
Interactions between groups of students will be limited in all grades.
Cafeteria: In the green phase, seating will all face the same direction, will be as spread out as possible and will be cleaned between use. In the yellow phase, students will eat in their classrooms.
Physical changes: Desks will all be facing the same way in classrooms.
Social distancing markers and signs with hygiene information will be put in all buildings, and plexiglass shields are being installed in main offices. Bottle-filler stations will be installed in schools.
Transportation: Parents are asked to drive their kids if possible, and students will be spaced out as possible on the buses. Roof hatches and windows will be open, weather-permitting, and the buses will be cleaned daily.
Status of the plans: The health and safety plan was presented at the ELCO School Board meeting on Monday, August 3.
Contingency plans: If a student or staff member becomes sick during the school day, they will be sent to the nurse immediately for screening and isolation in a designated area. Any area used by those with symptoms will be closed until it can be cleaned and disinfected.
Presumptive or confirmed cases can return with a medical note and if it has been 10 days since their symptoms appeared, they have been fever-free without medications for 72 hours and if they have improving symptoms. A negative test may be required.
Also: Hygiene practices will be taught to students, and signs will be put up reminding them.
More information can be found on ELCO’s website.
Palmyra Area School District
Start date: Aug. 31
Schedules: Normal schedules for students in kindergarten -5th grades, though students and parents will have the option to keep their kids at home to attend virtual, synchronous classroom sessions or to sign up for Cougar Academy, an asynchronous virtual option.
Students in grades 6-12 will start in a “blended” opening, with half attending every other day, Superintendent Bernie Kepler said at a July school board meeting. The at-home learning will be synchronous. After three weeks, the board will reconvene on Sept.14 to decide whether to keep with the alternating schedule or bring all students back full-time.
Virtual, synchronous learning will also be an option for students in grades 6-12, and an asychronous option is available through Cougar Academy.
Masks: Per state requirements, masks will be required in school buildings, with exemptions for some students.
Social distancing: The district is removing extra furniture, like small-group instruction tables, from out of classrooms to maximize space. Desks will all be facing in the same direction.
Building schedules will be adjusted to limit the number of students and staff moving through communal spaces or hallways, and one-way hallways and stairwells will be designated when appropriate. Secondary students will not use lockers, unless it is necessary for a student.
Students will go right to their first-period class in the morning.
Recess schedules will minimize the number of students outside at one time, and activities will minimize contact.
Physical changes: Group-learning space will be minimized. The district is removing non-essential furniture from classrooms to maximize space, and will face students iin the same direction and space them out as much as possible
Traditional water fountains will not be in use, and no-touch, bottle-refill stations are being installed.
Cafeteria: In the green phase, students will use the cafeteria, but schedules will be looked at to provide appropriate distancing and ensure multiple groups of students or staff aren’t moving through the line at the same time. Assigned seating at tables is preferred.
Use of the cafeteria in the yellow phase will be reassessed.
Cleaning: High-touch points – like doorknobs or lightswitches – will be cleaned frequently throughout the day .Classroom surfaces will be cleaned a minimum of twice a day. Equipment for recess or physical education will be cleaned in between uses.
Hand sanitizer will be available throughout school buildings as possible.
Transportation: District buses will be cleaned after the morning runs and at the end of the day. Buses will be loaded from the back to limit interactions, and students will wear masks on buses. Bus windows will be open to improve ventilation, and students will sit in the same cohort, or with siblings.
Parents who can drive their kids are being asked to do so to reduce bus capacity.
Symptom screening: Parents will screen students before school in the morning for symptoms, and staff will self-screen.
Contingency plans: Teachers will be trained on recognizing symptoms, and students will be sent to the nurse, screened for symptoms and isolated if they exhibit symptoms. Areas where a sick person was in will be left for 24 hours if possible, then cleaned and disinfected.
The Department of Health will be contacted for guidance if the school is notified of a potential exposure. State and federal guidelines will be followed to determine when someone self-isolating or quarantining will be able to return to school. Anyone with a probable case may return to school when their symptoms are improving, it has been at least 10 days since symptoms started and at least 24 hours after their last fever without the use of fever-reducing medication.
Miscellaneous: Library books will be “quarantined” for five days before being put back on the shelves.
Use of school facilities by outside groups will be minimized.
Status of the plans: The Palmyra Area School Board approved the health and safety plan at its meeting on Monday, July 27.
More information can be found on Palmyra’s website
Annville-Cleona School District
Start date: Aug. 31
Schedules: Annville-Cleona will start with a blended reopening from August 31 – Sept. 9, with half of students attending every other day, based on last names, and a few days where all students will be online. On Sept. 10, all students who choose in-person schooling will be back in the classroom. Students also have the option for a virtual option, called ACSD CARES, which includes synchronous learning from their Annville-Cleona teachers for elementary, middle and high school students.
Annville-Cleona also has a school-run cyber option.
If Lebanon is moved back to the yellow phase, a hybrid model – where half the students attend Monday and Tuesday, everyone is virtual Wednesday, and the other half attend Thursday-Friday, is an option.
Masks: Per the Department of Education, Superintendent Krista Antonis said masks are required except for those with exemptions. Teachers will build in mask breaks throughout the day, either by taking classes outside or getting 6-feet in-between students.
Symptom checking: Parents are asked to screen their kids at home before sending them to school, Antonis said. Doing temperature checks at the schools raised concerns that it would lead to students congregating and increase exposure risks.
Social distancing: Students in grades kindergarten – 8th grade will be in cohorts, and will remain in their classrooms as much as possible. Antonis said they are able to get 3 feet of distance between students at a minimum in all classrooms, and 4.5 feet in some rooms.
Antonis said social distancing is easier in the high school, where grade sizes are smaller than in the younger grades. Student dismissals between classes will be staggered to reduce the number of students in the hallway.
Cleaning: There will be increased outside air flow, Antonis said, and classrooms will be sanitized between groups of students. There will be wipes in each classroom for students who want to wipe down their desks themselves, and high-touch points will be cleaned as much as possible. Annville-Cleona is contracting with additional outside cleaning staff to handle the increased duties, Antonis said.
Physical changes: Desks will all be facing the same way, and as much furniture as possible is being moved out of the rooms to maximize space.
Cafeteria: Students will be spaced out as much as possible in cafeterias, Antonis said, and portions of the gyms in some buildings may be utilized as cafeteria space.
Transportation: Antonis said adding additional bus runs wasn’t an option with their bus contractor, but about two-thirds of parents have agreed to drive their kids, ensuring they will be able to socially distance students who do take the bus. Buses will be cleaned between runs, Antonis said.
Status of the plans: The Palmyra Area School Board will vote on the health and safety plan at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 10
Contingency plans: Schools are setting up isolation areas in the nursing suites for any students experiencing symptoms, Antonis said, and will work with the Department of Health and school physician to determine how to deal with students with confirmed cases or exposures to COVID-19.
More information can be found on Annville-Cleona’s website: https://www.acschools.org/domain/592, and more information will be available during the school board meeting on August 3.
Cornwall-Lebanon School District
Start date: Aug. 31
Schedules: Grades K-5 will be in-person full-time, while grades 6-12 will be operating on a blended, alternating schedule, with half the students in the classroom and half attending synchronous virtual lessons on alternating days. Superintendent Philip Domencic said while they would prefer to have everyone back full-time at some point, the plan is designed to be fluid so classes could go fully in-person or fully online if necessary.
There is a virtual option for grades K-8 with a Cornwall-Lebanon teacher and the Cedar Crest Cyber school option.
Masks: Masks will be required except for those with exemptions, and Cornwall-Lebanon has acquired face shields for students and staff as an option. Disposable face masks have also been ordered, and mask breaks and socially-distanced spaces will be used.
Social distancing: Large, “non-traditional” learning-spaces and outside areas will be utilized more frequently for classes.
Class sizes are being reduced, and will be in the low 20s across all elementary grades. 14 staff members are being reassigned from non-mandated areas to help reduce class sizes in the elementary grades.
Class changes, recess, lunch schedules and other schedules will be adjusted to limit contact between individuals
Symptom checking: Parents are asked to screen their kids at home before sending them to school.
Physical changes: In grades 6-12, classrooms will have webcams and “360 microphones” so students attending virtually will be able to see the teacher and hear the classroom.
Bottle-filling stations will be added to school buildings, as will portable hand-washing stations. Plexiglass will be installed in school offices and other workspaces where physical distancing can’t be accomplished.
Cafeteria: Seating for lunch will be expanded to the gym and other school areas.
Cleaning: There will be chemical spray bottles and hand sanitizer dispensers in each classroom and office, and daily and after-school cleaning will be enhanced. Bathrooms will be cleaned throughout the day.
HVAC runs will be increased, and introduction of fresh air will be increased. Windows may be opened on buses and in classrooms to increase ventilation.
Transportation: Buses will be “deep-cleaned” each day, and high touch points will be cleaned between runs. Windows will be opened to increase ventilation. Masks will be worn on buses, and students will sit with the same people each day. Buses will be filled from back to front to limit interaction, and tape marks will be put on seats to support seating protocols.
Status of the plans: The Cornwall-Lebanon School Board approved the plans at its Monday, July 27 meeting.
Contingency plans: Isolation areas will be established in each school where people exhibiting symptoms during the school day will go. There will be flexible attendance and sick-leave policies.
Departments of Health and Education and CDC guidance will be followed when there is a confirmed case or exposure. Seating charts, assigned bus and lunch seats and cohort groupings will be used should contact tracing need to be done.
More information can be found on the Cornwall-Lebanon website
Northern Lebanon School District
Start date: Aug. 31
Schedules: Elementary students will begin school fully in-person, with additional staff being brought in to reduce class sizes. Students will have the option to attend virtual classes.
Middle and high school stduents will start school in a hybrid, A/B model, with half of students attending on alternating days. Students will attend virtual, synchronous classes when at home. Northern Lebanon is installing cameras and 360-degree microphones in classrooms. Students will have the option to attend completely virtual classes.
The district also offers a V3 cyber option, which is online, non-synchronous learning.
Masks: Masks will be required with exceptions as per state guidelines, though providing daily mask breaks is being considered. Clear masks or shields are being considered for staff working in language programs.
Social distancing: When possible, only one student will be allowed out of a classroom at a time. Staggered dismissal times are being considered to reduce hallway congestion.
Elementary classes will be kept together and students will eat lucnh in their classrooms.
Communal spaces will not be used in the yellow phase, and in both the yellow and green phases only one class will be allowed out for recess at a time.
Symptom checking: Students and staff – including bus drivers – will perform self-checks before the school day.
Physical changes: Desks will be spaced as far apart as possible and will all face the same direction.
Classrooms and other areas will be ventilated when possible, including opening doors and windows and using fans.
Water fountains will be turned off and bottle-filling stations will be available.
“Sneeze-guards” will be installed in the main office and at the cafeteria payment areas.
Cleaning: High-touch points will be cleaned daily, as will bathrooms, high traffic areas, buses and classrooms. Classroom desks and tables will be cleaned between each group of students.
Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be available in classrooms and office areas when possible.
Cafeteria: Elementary students will eat lunches in their classrooms.
Transportation: The bus contractor will use a disinfectant to deep clean buses two times a day, and parents are encouraged to drive their kids to school whenever possible to reduce crowding on buses. Windows and roof hatches will be opened when students aren’t on the bus to increase ventilation.
Status of the plans: The Northern Lebanon School Board approved their plan at their August 4 meeting.
Contingency plans: Those showing symptoms during the day will be sent to the nurse, isolated and monitored in the health office or an isolation area.
Those with confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 will be allowed back to school after being cleared by a physician and after they have been fever-free (without the aid of medication) for 72 hours and after 10 or more days since symptoms began, or with a negative test result.
Also: No perfect attendance awards or incentives will be offered.
Proper hand washing and sanitizing will be taught to students, and students will regularly have to wash or sanitize their hands.
Outside groups will be able to rent facilities if they have approved social distancing procedures. Additional sanitization fees may be included.
Library books will be held for two days after being returned before being added back to the shelves.
More information can be found on the Northern Lebanon website.
Nora Shelly can be reached at 717-454-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org