Dear Butler Area School District Community:
We recently provided parents/guardians with the opportunity to provide “start of the year” feedback. In addition, our faculty and staff have been assessing what is working well and what needs to be revised. As a result of this feedback, I have several updates, reminders and changes that I would like to share with you.
First, thank you to everyone who submitted their feedback over the past few weeks. We are using the information that was collected to help ensure each of our Learning Pathways are as effective as possible for the remainder of the year.
For families who have returned to school for in-person instruction, one of the most consistent comments was regarding the lack of hot meals being served at school. As I’m sure you can imagine, serving meals to students who are eating in multiple locations in order to create the safest possible environment has not been easy. However, I am happy to report that we are now serving hot meals!
I would like to sincerely thank our food service workers who have been working tirelessly since March -- through our school closure, during the summer and now in a very different setting at school -- to ensure we are providing meals to students.
The USDA has authorized the continuation of the Summer Seamless option for school district food service programs. This means that any student who would like a breakfast and/or lunch Monday-Friday will be provided their meal(s) free of charge. This includes all of our Cyber Learning Program students. Click to register a student who is currently enrolled in the Cyber Learning Program.
At this point, the program is authorized through the end of December 2020. Students do not have to be eligible for the free meal program in order to get their breakfast or lunch free of charge. However, we still encourage you to apply so that there is no disruption to your child’s meal program in January. Click to access the free/reduced application.
Traditional School Model /Social Distancing
We have been experiencing a trend of students returning to traditional school. While we are happy to see our students return, it does present challenges. At our elementary schools, we have been able to maintain social distancing. However, we may need to adjust classroom student assignments and possibly move some classrooms into bigger spaces.
I do want to be clear and transparent that at our secondary schools, our teachers are doing their best to spread students out as much as possible. However, in our secondary classrooms this has limitations. Based on the number of students attending our traditional school model, secondary classrooms are not fully socially distanced at all times. However, we have been able to maintain social distancing at lunch.
Face coverings are required at school and on the bus. It has been brought to my attention that some students are removing their face coverings while on the bus. Please remind your child that he/she must wear an appropriate face covering on the bus at all times, unless there is a properly documented medical exemption.
School Operating Status
I have been asked what would cause us to move to remote learning? There are two considerations. First, what is the community transmission of COVID-19? We have been monitoring community transmission, monitoring the data specific to the zip codes that comprise our school district and using that data to review our mode of operation framework that we adopted in August. You can find that information on our website. Click to view.
The second consideration is if and when we have a positive case involving a student or employee. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does have a chart to help guide decision making if a school/school district has positive cases. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Health will provide direct guidance and insights to a school district to help determine what is the best course of action.
At this point, the Butler Area School District has not been informed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health of any positive cases. Additionally, the current community transmission data for COVID-19 has not indicated a need to change our operating status. Please be aware that the numbers change daily. We evaluate every Friday for the following week and post the information on our website. Should we have to change our operating status, we will use our automated system to send parents an email, text message and call, similar to how we alert families to a school delay or cancelation.
We are very aware that some of our neighboring districts have had positive cases. We communicate almost daily with our neighboring school districts and monitor our COVID-19 data daily.
While we hope it never happens, we are proactively preparing should it become necessary to alter our operations at some point in the future.
Our students are making great academic progress. What we are doing today is significantly better than what we were capable of doing in the spring. With that said, we are still not teaching and learning in a normal environment. Our teachers are doing a tremendous job managing multiple Learning Pathways to meet the needs of all students. This is an overwhelming endeavor for them. We are able to be open and operate because of the work our teachers are doing. I encourage you to thank them for their efforts.
Changing Your Child’s Learning Pathway
One of our more significant challenges is making sure we keep track of student progress for students switching Learning Pathways. The number of changes between Learning Pathways has also been a challenge for our teachers to make sure students receive the content they need. In addition, frequent changes can be disruptive to the student and the student’s classmates.
Beginning on Monday, October 12, requests for changing Learning Pathways at the secondary level (grades 7-12) will not be instantaneous. We will offer a transition window at the change of the nine week period as well as five weeks into each nine week period. The intent is that students and parents will have progress reports available at that time to help them make the decision that is best for their family.
With that said, we understand that a change may be required outside of these specific windows. If your child needs to change his/her Learning Pathway, you must provide a reason in writing to your child’s principal. The principal must review/approve all change requests outside of the open window.
Elementary students will still be able to change on a weekly basis. Change requests must be submitted by noon on Wednesday in order for the student to begin in the new Learning Pathway the following Monday.
More information about transitioning between our Learning Pathways is available on our website. Click to view.
Finally, I am happy to share that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has updated its guidance on congregant group limits. This will allow us to increase the number of people attending athletic events and other events. We are now working through what events, such as the school musical, are feasible under the new guidance. Click to view our updated attendance information for athletic events.
Thank you for your continued patience and flexibility this school year. We sincerely appreciate your support.
Brian J. White, Jr., Ed.D.
Butler Area School District