NAZARETH, Pa. - The Nazareth Area School District will be fully open to students this fall if Northampton County remains in the green, or least-restrictive, coronavirus reopening phase.
Superintendent Dennis Riker emphasized Tuesday that the plan presented to the school board and available on the district's website is a draft plan.
Riker repeatedly asked that any questions be sent to the district and that misinformation not be spread on social media. He said that rumors of a plan being approved by the board Tuesday were false.
“It is basically impossible to approve a plan tonight knowing that additional guidelines, additional requirements will continue to come out,” Riker said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
The plan is “fluid” because the district is subject to many levels of state and federal oversight, he said.
As of now, with the county in the green phase as defined by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, schools will be open as usual.
Students will be asked to wear masks when they are within 6 feet of another person. Bus capacity will be limited to 48 students and students and drivers will be asked to wear masks and to face forward at all times.
School will start 30 minutes later and students will be expected to arrive shortly before the day starts so they are not hanging around outside.
“We are trying to avoid large gatherings of students when not necessary,” Riker said.
Lunch will be served, though food options will be limited. Meals will be served in lunchrooms, gyms and large classrooms to keep students spread out. Students will be allowed to bring lunch from home.
Access to lockers will be limited where possible to avoid having lots of students in hallways. In larger classrooms, students will not be required to wear masks as long as there is 6 feet between each child.
Mask-wearing will be an issue, Riker said. He said that state law prohibits the district from asking for documentation if a student claims they are not able to wear a mask because of a medical or psychological condition, or a disability.
“If a student comes in and says, ‘I am not wearing a mask today because it jeopardizes my mental health,’ ” the district has to accept that, he said. The district will not set up separate classrooms for those not wearing masks.
Sports, as noted at an earlier meeting, will be played, as of now. Riker said that the district will follow whatever guidelines the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association sets.
Nazareth Area is preparing a cyber option for parents who do not want to send their children into school buildings, Riker said.
He urged those parents to consider keeping their children in the district and said that the Nazareth cyber option will be a fully developed program, not like the home-based instruction the district shifted to in March when schools closed.
If phase changes
If the county goes back to the yellow phase, children in kindergarten though sixth grade would still attend daily because, Riker said, working parents with young children are not always able to get daycare.
Students in grades 7-12 would attend in-person every other day and be given assignments to complete on days that they are not in school.
If Wolf ordered the region back into the red phase because the coronavirus was spreading rapidly, all instruction would be online.
Riker said that the district will be cleaning desks, restrooms and other public areas more frequently. He also said that parents have to help by not sending sick children to school.
“I cannot stress enough that if parents have a child who is not feeling well, keep them home,” he said.
The district will send a survey about the reopening to parents and it will also be available on the NASD website.
Riker reiterated that the district is subject to state and federal rulings.
And, for information, he directed people to look at the NASD website for the draft plan and frequently asked questions; to send inquiries to the district; and to not spread false information.
The board’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on July 28.