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Northern Lehigh approves school reopening plan

At a virtual meeting that included members of the Northern Lehigh School District Board of Education, Superintendent Matthew Link spelled out details in various school reopening plans that are dependent upon the challenges that could occur from further outbreaks of COVID-19.

Link began by crediting the Northern Lehigh Education Association, the school administration team, the school board, and St. Luke’s Health Network for their input into the planning that was also developed with answers from surveys returned by district parents.

“We have approved a framework to move forward,” said Link, “but due to the overwhelming uncertainty of what the future holds, we have multiple scenarios that may or may not materialize.”

For the four schools in the district, as long as the county remains in the green phase, there will be a five-day school week, but Link pointed out, there may have to be adjustments into a hybrid model.

Parents will be given the option to have their children attend school or accept alternative options that include short- and long-term distance learning.

Link explained that if parents choose short-term distance learning, NLSD teachers will provide district curriculum. Under the Bulldog Academy, students could opt for full-time distance learning for a minimum of one marking period and courses would be taught by Pennsylvania certified teachers.

Parents will be asked what their intent is for the first day of school.

Link said that Centers for Disease Control and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines will be emphasized at all school locations.

Face coverings will be required in classrooms and anywhere in buildings, such as communal areas and hallways, where social distancing is not feasible.

There will be earlier times to enter and multiple entrances and exits will be utilized to prevent crowding. Only emergency and essential staff and students will be allowed in the buildings.

The secondary school bell systems will be replaced by teacher dismissals from classrooms to alleviate student congestion during travel from one classroom to another.

Opening and closing times can be found on the district website. Parents who have not yet registered for kindergarten can find the link to register also on the district website.

Students will bring Chromebooks and water bottles to school and all academic materials will be carried to classes to limit locker visits.

Lunch periods will divided in larger areas such as libraries and classrooms.

On school buses, students will sit two per seat and face coverings will be required.

Link presented the plan if the district goes back to the yellow or red phase. “We will go full distance learning with the yellow phase,” said Link, “and also in the red phase if schools are ordered closed again.”

He added that although the state may not order a school shut down, local health issues with the virus may necessitate the Northern Lehigh school district to decide to close down.

Parents will be asked to conduct home health screenings and keep their children out of school should they become sick. Link also encouraged parents who work to request from their employers permission should they have to stay home with their children.

All of this information will be provided on a Quick Reference Card, but the full text of the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines can be accessed on the district website.

Link said the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute will be making its own reopening plan that will be in compliance with the NLSD so a smooth transition can be determined.

A full fall sports program is currently in place.

School begins on Aug. 31.