During its meeting on Monday evening, the Conewago Valley School District outlined its plans to offer more support to students and families who are struggling due to changes from the pandemic.
One member of the audience who said they are not a parent of a child in the district asked how the schools can help students struggling with the mask mandate.
The commenter asked how the district extends offers of help to students who do not want to attend in person.
Dr. Sharon Perry, assistant superintendent of the district, said the pandemic has caused a unique and increased set of needs.
“We are very aware of the challenges that the pandemic has brought all of us, not just children but adults alike, and it’s something that as a school community we recognize the absolute necessity for social-emotional learning,” Perry said.
Perry said the stress and changes from the pandemic, including time out of school and away from their peers and schedules, affect the children in multiple ways.
“For example, when we look at the behavior of a certain age group of students and we wonder, ‘Why are they so immature? Why are they not behaving the way that we would expect them to behave at that particular age?’ That’s why,” Perry said. “They’ve been out of school routines, and support, etc. So we do recognize that and that there is additional need for support both emotionally and socially, as well as academically.”
Perry said the schools have a student support team evaluating students’ needs and extending offers of help, including counseling.
“It’s something that has been a much higher need than historically, but it’s something that as school district leaders and curriculum leaders, that there is conversation about that better support for kids,” Perry said.
Perry added that students also recently took the Pennsylvania Youth Survey to identify other areas of concern.
In a separate address to the board, Perry said the district will soon communicate with parents and students about graduation options for those who do not pass or do not take the Keystone Exams.
“We’re very pleased because we have a plan of how we’re going to address the unique needs of each student so that beginning with the class of 2023, they will all have met the requirements as set forth through Act 158,” Perry said.
Act 158 was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2018.
“Effective with the graduating class of 2023, students have the option to demonstrate postsecondary preparedness through one of four additional pathways that more fully illustrate college, career, and community readiness,” the Pennsylvania Department of Education states on its website.
Act 158 does not do away with the Keystone Exams.
“Keystone Exams will continue as the statewide assessment Pennsylvania uses to comply with accountability requirements set forth in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA),” the Department of Education says on its website. “Although students will no longer be required to achieve proficiency on the Keystone Exams to meet the statewide graduation requirement, students must take the Keystone Exams for purposes of federal accountability. Failure to do so will affect a Local Education Agency (LEA) and school’s participation rate.”
The information will be provided with families and placed on the website, according to Perry.
Perry said she also recently met with the student advisory council to learn how the school year has been for students.
“I was pleased to hear how excited they were to actually come back this school year, and that they were happy to see all of their friends and all of their teachers,” Perry said.
Perry said it was rewarding to hear positive feedback.
“To see that excitement come from the students, that they valued the education that we’re providing here at Conewago Valley, I couldn’t have been more proud for the support of the families as well as the students in joining us and giving us their perspective,” Perry said.
Jeffrey Kindschuh, vice president of the board, extended congratulations from the board to several students.
Elizabeth Pfisterer was honored for being the New Oxford High School Rotary Student of the Month in September while Jett Moore and Ally Mathis were congratulated for being nominated as Times Area Players of the Week in Sept. 27 and Oct. 4, respectively. Multiple students were recognized for receiving notices of acceptance to and scholarships for college.
Abigail Sullivan, the district’s student body representative, said students stayed busy in September with a pep rally as well as homecoming, which had 800 people attend.
The 25-minute video stream of the board meeting lost video and audio of the school board less than two minutes into the meeting, resuming about seven minutes later.
The board held an executive session both before and after the open meeting.
The board will hold a study session at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1. The next regular meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8.
Both meetings will take place in the district office. Meetings have been streamed on the district’s YouTube page.