Saucon Valley School District

Seven Northeast governors, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, released a joint statement promoting in-person learning this week, as states continue documenting increasing cases of COVID-19.

The statement, posted to Twitter, says in-person learning is "safe when appropriate protections are in place, even in communities with high transmission rates."

Many schools implemented hybrid or virtual learning at the beginning of the school year, but some started with full-in person learning as an option.

"We have proudly been in person five days a week since the onset of the school year," said Dr. Craig Butler, Superintendent of Saucon Valley School District.

About 80% of the district's students are participating in person. The rest are learning remotely.

The district has also found a way to make sure there's only one child per seat on school buses, thanks in part to parents offering to drive their kids to school or carpool with PPE.

The district has had a lot of success. The positive cases it has had were at the high school and most not tied to in-person learning.

"There's strong evidence, research now that I have read and shared with me, that one of the safest places for children to be is in school," Butler said.

The district has decided to transition online for a full week after Thanksgiving break, giving students about 11 days apart.

When asked, given evidence that in-person learning can be one of the safest environments for students, why the district chose to take a week hiatus, Butler said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution.

"You raise a good point. We did give some consideration to that. But, we thought the highest volatility of that one week or that time after the holidays with no reprieve getting back into school, we were a little bit leery," Butler said.

The move is strictly precautionary and had to do with recognizing college students will be returning home, and people likely congregating over the holiday.

"The uniting of people so to speak raised a level of concern for us," Butler said.

Butler agreed with the governor's statement that students' mental health and learning abilities are hurt by remote learning. He added that it's the district's intent to continue the course with in-person learning. The virtual learning period is currently scheduled for just a week.

"It is very much a watch and wait period of time," Butler said. "We know we can extend it, we may be forced to extend it, we hope that's not the case."

Butler noted that parents in the district have appreciated the offering of full-time in person learning.

Saucon Valley isn't the only district that's decided to implement remote learning following the holiday. East Penn will be remote for two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Montgomery County schools are going remote too, from November 23 to December 6, following a decision by the county health board. Some parents are suing.

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