ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Allentown School District will begin the 2020-2021 school year completely virtually.

The recommendation, made by the Parker administration, was approved unanimously by the board of directors during its Thursday night meeting.

"We do so in a bit of a somber way, we know and understand the reality of COVID is that it is taking lives," Superintendent Thomas Parker said. "We make these decisions with a heavy heart. I don't think there is a 'right decision' and 'wrong decisions'... There are too many unknowns at this time."

The board fielded questions and comments from parents as the meeting stretched on for several hours.

"It is hard being in a COVID classroom," President Sara Brace said explaining her decision. "... I feel that this pause on opening our schools is the best option. It allows our students to stay safe and our staff to stay safe."

Under the plan, the district would commence the educational year on Sept. 8, with virtually remote classes.

"This will be a high-quality educational experience for all students in the district," Parker added.

The situation will be reassessed at the end of the first quarter.

"We will continue to work toward that hybrid (learning) model," during that time, Parker said.

In other news, ASD reached an agreement with the Allentown Federation of Paraprofessionals Local 1716-PAFT, AFT, AFL-CIO. The three-year deal runs from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2021. The paraprofessionals did not have an agreement the last two years.

The board also approved a collective bargaining food service agreement with the Pennsylvania Joint Board, Workers United and SUIU Local 391, who represent for three years, running from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022. The board also approved fringe benefits and work year criteria for food service managers for three years, ending June 30, 2022.

In other business, directors named Lucretia Brown as the district's deputy superintendent for equity, accountability and school improvement. Thursday night's approval amended Brown's previous contract. She will receive an adjusted annual salary of $137,690 for the 2020-2021 school year.

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