Editor's Notes

In our story published Thursday about renovations being made at The Campus Theatre in Lewisburg to prepare for a potential reopening next month, Theatre Executive Director Scotta Magnelli had a great line about their developing plans.

“Everything is being carved in Jello,” she said.

Today’s special report on Valley schools’ plans for the coming year,  “Ready to Reopen?”,  examines the varied approaches being taken and plans being made by Valley school districts.

There’s a lot of Jello-like wiggle room in those plans as well.

There has to be. There’s just no telling where this coronavirus is going to take us next.

Just a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania seemed to have pretty much flattened the curve. Our June 30 edition reported 492 new statewide cases from Monday, June 29. That was down from 505 on Sunday, June 28. 

Since then, the numbers have been up pretty consistently, starting with 636 on July 1, to 995 one week later on July 8, and as high as 1,032 on Friday.

With one exception — 328 on Monday, July 13 — the numbers have been concerningly higher than they’d been statewide this month. With Saturday's report of 763 confirmed cases, the state now has exceeded 700 new cases in 11 out of the last 12 days.

A lot of that increase has come in more populated areas around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Here in the Valley, the increases have been less severe. We’ve gone from a total of 545 total confirmed cases on June 30 to 634 as of Saturday, July 18.

Still, that’s up, not flat. 

As our reporting team has learned from talking to school officials, parents, teachers and students the past two weeks, there are two things we know for sure about reopening schools:

1. Most prefer to see a return to in-classroom education.

2. Nobody knows for sure the best way to do that or how safe it’s going to be.

District officials from across the Valley have reached out to survey parents, conducted some virtual or in-person meetings with them and met together to share ideas. 

Our report today looks at the options districts are considering and the obstacles they face, including transportation, scheduling, class sizes and adhering to CDC guidelines. We hope it will help parents throughout our coverage area get a sense of what’s being decided and what to expect. 

On Thursday, state teacher’s union President Rich Askey asked Gov. Tom Wolf to direct Pennsylvania’s public schools to begin planning for the delivery of online instruction if the continued spread of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania makes opening schools for in-person instruction unsafe for students, educators and their families.

Also Thursday, the state indicated it was still planning to reopen schools, but warned that if the public health situation deteriorates, the state could close schools in all or parts of the state.

None of us has any real idea where this is going. Three weeks ago or so it looked pretty good for in-person school to resume statewide in some fashion. It still actually looks possible here in the Valley, assuming our increases don’t surge.

But there’s going to have to be plenty of flexibility.

Take what the Shikellamy School District announced Thursday night as an example. The school board approved a plan that will be updated monthly and gives parents the choice of in-person classes or the district’s K-12 cyber academy.

Plenty of Jello-like wiggle room there.

Send comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.

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