MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa.– Muhlenberg School District's superintendent shared a post-pandemic action plan for the next three years at Wednesday night's school board meeting.
Joseph E. Macharola said the purpose of the plan is to chart the district over the next few years with strategies that address the needs of the children.
"There are a new set of concerns and obligations for our children," Macharola said. "We need to restructure our thinking, knowing that things are going to change coming out of the pandemic."
Macharola identified a three-phased plan, with the first phase addressing the current school year, which will end on June 9.
Muhlenberg remained on a virtual-only model until March 22, when the first students were invited to come back to schools in a hybrid mix of in-person learning and virtual classes.
"Our job right now is to develop relationships with our children who have not been in this environment for a year," Macharola said. "Our job is to focus on the mental health of our children."
Phase II of the plan focuses on a summer learning model that will include literacy remediation for students and professional development for teachers.
While Macharola said the district does not yet know the exact programs that will be offered, he said the district is developing optional remedial courses for children throughout the summer.
Macharola also noted the district will be actively recruiting teachers.
"We need the best practitioners here," he said. "Our environment calls for that. We will need to fill positions with innovative, compassionate and empathetic practitioners."
Phase III will begin at the start of the new school year on Aug. 30 and will last through 2024.
Macharola said the projection is that 75-85% of students will be receiving a traditional in-person education, while 15-25% of students will opt to remain in virtual models.
"Our virtual school will still be there," Macharola said. "It has to stay there because I don't want to hear that Muhlenberg does not offer an alternative to a traditional model."
"Our focus will be to get children back in the norm in school and get them more involved in arts and humanities," he said. "We will be developing strategies to focus increasing student activity and engagement. That is critical because kids coming out of the pandemic have to have connections so that they belong to something."
Board member Mark J. Nelson questioned why the administration is estimating that up to 25% of students will still be virtual a year from now.
"Coming out of the starting gate, this is what we have to do," Macharola said. "If we don't look at it from this standpoint, we're going to fail."
Designation of Muhlenberg Junior High School
Also Wednesday, the board approved a redesignation of Muhlenberg Middle School as Muhlenberg Junior High School, effective July 1. The school includes seventh through ninth grades.
In other news, the board agreed to spend more than $600,000 to repave the high school parking lot and upgrade the lighting.
The board awarded a $530,841 asphalt contract to Construction Masters Services LLC, Sinking Spring, and a $103,000 electrical contract to Shannon A. Smith Inc., Myerstown.