Neshaminy Superintendent Calls For Slower Reopening

Dr. Rob McGee, Ph.D. Photo via Neshaminy School District.

Neshaminy School District Superintendent Dr. Rob McGee is recommending a delay to a full time in-person learning plan.

Originally, the school board was looking to vote next Tuesday to put students back in the classroom starting Monday, November 2. But now, McGee is advocating for a more gradual approach.

If the board follows McGee’s call, the district would remain in a hybrid model until after Thanksgiving break. Then, only some students would go back depending on grade level.

First, kindergarten through grade 4 would go back to in-person learning four days per week on November 30. On Fridays, the students would still learn remotely.

The new plan has all middle and high school students staying in the hybrid model through January 2021.

McGee’s recommendation closely resembles a plan adopted by the Pennsbury School District earlier this week. Both focus on putting younger students in the classroom first and have older students stay in hybrid through January.

Currently, all students in the Neshaminy School District are learning in a “Red/Blue Hybrid Model.” While the school colors are different, it is similar to other situations in Pennsbury, Bristol Borough, and Council Rock.

McGee sent out the update in a letter Thursday. In it, he laid out several reasons for the adjustment.

“From my seat, I am not confident we can bring students, grades Kindergarten through Grade 12, back to school in early November maintaining the level of safety, organization and quality that is the community’s expectation of us.”

A problem the district faces if it chooses to bring back all students for in-person learning is space.

In a hybrid model, there are less students in the classroom at once; half of them are back home learning remotely. But in an “All-In” plan, more students means less space to social distance.

Question: If Neshaminy moved to Plan A, All Students in School, I am comfortable with 3 feet of distance between students in the classroom instead of the present Blue/Red Hybrid configuration of 6 feet. Click to enlarge

To accommodate all students in the classroom, desks would only have three feet of space between them. A survey of more than 6,000 families found a fairly even, but very divided split on this issue.

While 35 were extremely comfortable, 28 percent were extremely uncomfortable. Meantime, 18 percent were slightly comfortable while 15 percent were slightly uncomfortable and five percent were neither.

One of the other changes from the district’s original “All-In” plan is a move from five days to four. McGee explained the elementary schools needed more personnel and supervisors.

Moving lunches into the classroom required 40 additional staff, but the district simply did not have the numbers. The solution came in the form of moving bus drivers and aids the chance to swap Friday work hours for other times Monday through Thursday to supervise lunch and recess.

“So, if you are following along, I “Robbed Peter to pay Paul” eliminating my ability to provide Transportation on Fridays to cover Elementary Lunch and Recess the other days of the week,” said McGee.

If the school board approves of McGee’s suggestion, it must vote to table the All-In option at its next meeting on Oct. 27. Then, the new plan will come up at its Nov. 10 meeting.