Looking ahead at 2021-22 school year

Looking ahead at 2021-22 school year
Posted on 04/21/2021

Good afternoon!  There is so much to share, so I will get right to it.

At a couple of Board Committee meetings over the past month, and then at the April 8th School Board Meeting, the Administration shared our planning philosophy and plans for the upcoming school year.  The Administration is looking to receive Board approval of these plans at the next School Board meeting on April 29th, so please take a few moments to read through this blog and share your thoughts and feedback with the Board and me, if you have any, at your earliest convenience so they may be considered. The email is board@qcsd.org.
2021-22 School Year Instructional Model: I hope to answer the most important question first!  What will Quakertown schools look like in the fall? Our planning philosophy is all about getting us back to close to normal or “the new normal” as possible when we return to school in August.  Specifically, the modality of instruction will be live instruction for all!  We expect vaccinations for COVID to continue, along with mandated state and local safety precautions to be in place.  The Bucks County Director of Health recommended we plan for a regular opening in the fall, which is our direction.  Naturally, we will have plans and the ability to be flexible throughout the year for the unexpected. In the next few days, building principals will be reaching out to parents to confirm their intent for bus transportation for next year so Levy's will have enough buses on hand for us in the fall.

Quakertown will offer a virtual option called Flex in the fall.  Edgenuity will be providing the instructional service with Pennsylvania certified teachers.  They will be teaching to state standards, but not following QCSD’s curriculum nor have a pacing along with our classroom teachers.  So moving back and forth from live instruction to Flex, and back to live instruction, will not be an option next year.  The Office of Teaching & Learning has designed a web page on this option.  If you have any questions about Flex or any other instructional matter, please contact Dr. Lisa Hoffman at lhoffman@qcsd.org.  

School Start Times and Bell Schedules: The recommended schedule for next year includes Quakertown Community High School and Strayer Middle School beginning their student day at 7:45 AM and 8:05 AM, respectively,  with all five elementary schools and the 6th Grade Center beginning their school day at 9:10 AM.  What this looks like and a comparison is at the following link.  There were four objectives in our start time planning discussions: 1) get yours and our schedules back to as close to normal as possible, 2) start the high school student day later, 3) minimize increased transportation costs, 4) build professional teacher development and collaboration time into the new schedule.

If you recall, prior to the onset of the pandemic last academic year, a community committee examined and deliberated on the research for school start times. The School Start Times Committee’s work was cut short due to COVID, but the findings were ever present in our thinking and planning while we went through the Bus Transportation contract proposal and decision-making process this year.  Moving from a 3-tier bus transportation system to a 2-tier system is cost prohibitive.   The new schedule pushes start times for HS students back 35 minutes.  It also gets our schedules and student “seat time” back to as close as possible to pre-COVID normal.  It moves the district from a 3-tier to a 2.5-tier bus system. This can be achieved at no additional cost to the district by re-aligning the 6th Grade Center start time with elementary schools.  Another objective that grew out of our planning discussions was to sustain time for professional development and teacher collaboration time to support our Comprehensive Plan goals.  Professional development over the past 13 months has been invaluable and we want to keep the momentum going.  The analysis of the difference from last year’s start times and next year’s start times is at this link.  

Tonight, the Board of School Directors will be participating in a Finance Committee meeting.  We are calling the presentation QCSD Budget 101 by Chief Operating Officer Zach Schoch and Finance Director Lynn Routson.  If you recall last year, the Board approved a no tax increase budget for this year. Over the past 12 months, the Board has engaged in numerous discussions about adding Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK), renovating Quakertown Elementary School, and constructing a baseball field.  Depending on whether or how each program is implemented could have an impact on the 2021-22 Budget, and will impact the budget in future years.  At the April 8th Board meeting we shared options with the Board about how to introduce FDK at minimal additional cost through declining student enrollment over the next three years, or to  provide FDK next year for all kindergarten students.  

Planning ahead for the financial impact of renovating Quakertown Elementary is important. If the Board decides for a full or partial renovation of QE, the cost would become a number added to our debt service.  We need to plan for that cost, as we did for the renovation of Neidig Elementary. Finally, the QCHS Varsity Baseball team has been looking for a homefield for several years.  They have been using Memorial Park on an agreement with the Borough for the past six years. The continued use of Memorial Park Field is problematic.  Less than two years ago, the Board looked to assume responsibility for the field. In doing so, it commissioned a study. The civil engineering and construction management reports recommended against the project - in the floodplain, and now the bleachers are condemned. At the April 8th School Board meeting Members approved having D’Huy Engineering study options for a baseball field on QCSD’s West Pumping Station Road property.

If you have time, join us tonight at the Finance Meeting.  All other QCSD ‘21-’22 Budget planning documents may be found on our webpage.  

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  We appreciate your feedback.

Bill Harner

Superintendent

Email: wharner@qcsd.org

Twitter: @billharner 

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