Remote education is an option available to students returning in 2020 to the Mifflinburg Area School District but Superintendent Dan Lichtel said in-person instruction is the “primary operation.”

School board directors voted late Tuesday to approve the district’s reopening plan. Directors also voted to adopt a pandemic resolution recommended by the state. It allows the district to maintain its 180-day school-year calendar in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak necessitating a district-wide shift to remote learning.

“Our proposed plan is to build in-person instruction as the primary operation with enrollment in our eLearning Academy as an option for parents who do not wish to participate in this,” Lichtel said.

The scheduled start to the school year is Aug. 20. The plan and supplemental materials are anticipated to be uploaded to Hybrid learning options are unavailable.

Masks are mandatory, with exceptions, throughout the school day and on school buses, which is required under the state’s universal mask order. Masks can be removed, Lichtel said, when students are seated at desks, outdoors and at recess or while eating lunch.

Medical exemptions won’t be cleared without official documentation from a physician, Lichtel said. 

Virtual town hall meetings for parents are as follows: middle school, Aug. 3; intermediate school, Aug. 4; high school, Aug. 5; elementary, Aug. 6.

That last date, Aug. 6, is also the soft deadline for district parents to register students for the district’s own eLearning program. The program is open to students in all grades. Lichtel said 65 students are already enrolled.

According to Lichtel, classroom furniture will be reconfigured to allow for up to 6 feet of social distance. Teachers will be using non-traditional spaces inside buildings plus outdoor settings. Same goes for lunch.

The plan calls for all students to receive an internet-ready device to use throughout the school year. Students lacking access to the internet at home will be aided to download lesson materials.

Cafeteria spaces will be cleaned between food service. Cleaning staff will use backpack sprayers to sanitize buildings nightly.

Parents are encouraged to provide transportation for their children. The district will continue busing with some distancing instituted on-board. Students are limited to one alternate bus pass. 

One point Lichtel emphasized is that parents will be relied on to screen their students daily for COVID-19 symptoms. He said if students present symptoms, they should stay home; faculty, too. A second layer of screening will occur in homeroom and first period, not at the entryways at the start of school.

Visitors are barred from district school buildings and there will be no public use of indoor school facilities, Lichtel said. There are exceptions to the visitation restriction for scheduled appointments. District-recognized groups such as athletic booster groups parent-teacher groups will have building access, he said.

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