MILTON — The Milton Area School District will re-open on Aug. 20, as planned and without delays, featuring in-person, remote and hybrid learning.

Due to current levels of community transmission in the counties they serve, Superintendent Cathy Keegan suggested at Tuesday night's board meeting, that they follow Pennsylvania Department of Education's recommendations — saying student instruction be either 100 percent virtual or a hybrid model, whereby students would have in-person learning Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Under the hybrid model, Wednesday would be a virtual, remote learning day, while staff deep cleans and sanitized the district's four school buildings along with the bus contractor cleaning their vehicles.

This is a recommendation, not a mandate, Keegan said. 

The board approved a measure to stick with the previously approved re-opening options of in-person, flexible (essentially a hybrid model), and cyber academy, with this proviso: allowing the superintendent discretion to modify the learning model based on positive cases within the county. 

Any such decision, Keegan assured the board, would be done after fulling informing the board of the situation and her decision.

There is a new grading system, Keegan told the board, which replaces the color-coding of red, yellow and green. Now, it's low, moderate, and substantial levels of transmission. "When we received an invitation to a Skype meeting this week it was the first that anyone was introduced to these types of measures," Keegan explained. 

"Union County is the only county in the Commonwealth that has reached the substantial level of community transmission," she said.

Because Union County has fallen into the "substantial level," Keegan said, the Pa. Department of Education case supported remote learning or a hybrid learning instruction model as options. 

Every Monday the new status and data points will be provided statewide, with information on where every county is in the Commonwealth. The status rate is based on incidents per 100,000 residents and or a percentage positivity during the most recent seven days. 

The district's original plan was a five-day a week in-person learning model, which at least for now becomes four days a week plus a Wednesday virtual day — the change because Union County was at a "substantial" level of community transmission.

Keegan explained to the board that a survey had been sent out to parents asking their opinion on how they would like their children to return to school.

"Sixty, to 65 percent of respondees wanted their kids to come back to school in a traditional learning environment," she said. "Approximately 600 students opted for the Milton Cyber Academy and the Flexible Learning Academy."

Of the student population of 2,050, 36 percent live in Union County, and 54 percent in Northumberland County.

Earlier in the meeting, director of student services Catherine Girton, outlined a detailed social and emotional behavioral program.

"It's a series of questionnaires," Girton said, "intended to gauge the wellness of students. It's an enhanced screening program to recognize social and emotional issues." 

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