In response to your Nov. 7 COVID and school districts article, I would like to address Gettysburg Area School District’s (GASD) health and safety plan, transparency, and opportunities.
On Monday Dec. 7 a group of concerned GASD parents and taxpayers collaborated on a letter to Superintendent Perrin and the GASD school board about COVID-19, the school’s practices, and in-person learning. As of today the board has not responded. Dr. Perrin responded but the response read like a copy and paste response, only addressing one of our many concerns. We had made eight reasonable requests to help slow the spread of COVID, and keep our children, GASD staff, and the community safe.
GASD is lucky to have great teachers and staff. We want to keep them! We know how hard they work and we do not want them sick. We do not want them to leave their careers and worse, lose their lives to COVID. They spend their lives making our children better people. They deserve to be safe.
1. GASD transitions to full remote learning model until 14 days after the holidays, when the spike of COVID cases declines. (Understanding certain IEP plans will have varied procedures.)
a. PA Department of Health creates a weekly “Level of Transmission Table” presenting the spread of COVID as Low, Moderate, or Substantial for each county in the state. Adams county has been in substantial spread since Nov. 6. The table recommends any county in substantial spread should be “full remote learning model”. Our elementary students have gone to in person classes 24 days during the substantial spread. Our letter asked “Why isn’t GASD following PA Department of Health recommendations?”
b. PA released new targeted mitigation measures on Nov. 24 stating our state was headed into an all-time high of COVID cases. The mitigation measures stated that all businesses able to work remotely should. Businesses not following the procedures can be reported and fined. Why is school different? School can be virtual.
c. Schools are shown to be safe if, and only if, the community around it is following the suggested protocols. Unfortunately, our community has a strong “anti-mask” following. They are refusing to wear masks, they are not socially distancing, they are gathering in large groups, etc. If the community is not taking the steps needed to slow the spread, then schools cannot be safe and some students and staff will be exposed. Two related issues concern the middle school, which is now closed until next Monday due to COVID infections: Many middle school teachers are wearing face shields without masks[c1] . The shields do not protect with the same efficiency as masks. Also, the middle school was not seating the lunch room properly until last week. These known factors combined show our schools are not as safe as the models project.
2. Survey parents to see if they are still comfortable with in person teaching or if they want GASD online (not GAVA).
3. Survey staff to see how they feel about their work environment. What do they prefer?
4. When returning to in person learning, staff needs to be in masks, not shields.
5. Since the number of COVID cases were not released to the parents before the online COVID tracker was put in place, we request the school release the backdated total number of COVID cases per school per week. We deserve to know.
6. Customize the COVID tracker to be more transparent. Present the number of cases per student/staff per school, not district wide. Also, include cases when the school is shut down. If contact tracing calls are needed, the frequencies should be recorded on the tracker
7. Ensure the tracker is used properly and maintains transparency and accountability.
8. Ensure all lunchrooms and classrooms have students sitting six feet apart and facing the same direction.
Dr. Perrin’s response stated they are following the PA Department of Education for closings due to site cases (keep in mind it takes eight cases to close the high school). He went on to say, “…we are also trying to preserve equity in education; as our families have a varied ability to support full remote learning at home based on variables such as work/daycare schedules, technology, student needs etc.” Then he suggested GAVA as an at home option since GASD online is not prepared for the transitions. He closed by saying, he understands the significant responsibility he holds.
Our school had nine months to sort out the variables listed above. Thousands of schools have mitigated those issues. No decision will be perfect. COVID is uprooting our lives in many ways. But our focus should be on student, staff, and community safety. We can prevent unnecessary deaths by taking measures to slow the spread.
Why is it only Dr. Perrin responding to the letter? When we began preparing for the start of school, the GASD School Board was in control of the decision. From my understanding, this decision should be up to the school board. Why aren’t we hearing from the board?
We deserve transparency, accountability, and proper decision making processes. Where are the answers to the above requests?
Mother of GASD students