Mifflinburg, Lewisburg school officials to track COVID-19 cases after state recommends online-only start

Robert Inglis/The Daily Item The Mifflinburg Middle School.

The Mifflinburg Area School Board voted late Tuesday to change how students will attend classes beginning Sept. 8 in an effort to balance safety and liability due to the coronavirus pandemic with a desire to have children attend school physically.

The board voted 7-2 to adopt a blended model for grades kindergarten through five, allowing parents to choose whether they’ll send their students in-person or have them learn remotely. Superintendent Dan Lichtel encouraged parents to act quickly and contact the district prior to the start of the school year to confirm their choice.

Students in grades six to 12 will attend on a hybrid model, going to school in-person at least twice weekly and learning remotely on the other days. Attendance will be split in secondary schools alphabetically, ensuring about half the student population will be in-person and the other half off-campus. District families seeking support for internet technology and hardware or printed materials should contact the district office directly.

The adopted models of instruction apply to the first marking period only. Board members and administrators must revisit the matter before the start of the second marking period.

The district had previously settled on allowing all district parents to choose in-person or remote learning. Remote education is effectively a model where desks serve as place-holders for students who are live-streaming lessons and following school curriculum from home.

Since then, Union County’s case count of COVID-19 grew steadily including cases inside the Lewisburg federal prison and at a congregate drug rehab facility. That spurred Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to recommend Union County switch to remote-only education models.

The board’s decision followed the internal planning of five different choices, all of which are available for public review in a link to an Aug. 21 letter on the homepage of www.mifflinburg.org. Administrators sought consult from Department of Health and Department of Education. According to Lichtel, representatives of both departments supported options to reduce the student population by about half.

One other option is cyber school, either through the district or independently. This is not the same as the district’s virtual classroom experience.

Board directors met for three hours Tuesday. Ultimately, the option they chose wasn’t initially on the board. Lichtel presented five options but Director Wendy McClintock proposed a sixth that combined blended learning and hybrid learning.

An initial vote for blended learning for all grade levels failed on a 3-5 vote. McClintock’s motion, after further deliberation, carried.

Voting in favor were McClintock, board President Dennis Keiser, Francis Gillott, Janell Weaver, Amy Wehr, Mindy Benfer and Tom Eberhart. Directors Tom Hosterman and Bob Mulrooney dissented.

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