May 14, 2021
Dear SDST Families and Staff,
Over the past ten days multiple changes to guidance from the CDC, PA Department of Health (PADOH), and Montgomery County Office of Public Health (MCOPH) have been made. The changes to recommendations and requirements have been carefully reviewed by our administrative team, and we will present a revised Health and Safety Plan to the Board for their consideration on Monday night. The changes to the plan, if approved by the board, would go into effect May 18th, and are summarized here:
Face coverings will continue to be required for staff and students at events and at school, both indoors and outdoors, as well as on school buses, with the following exceptions:
- Children may choose to remove masks when they arrive at recess outdoors. (Masks will need to be stored in an appropriate way and then students will replace their mask prior to entering the building. Principals will communicate details.)
- Children in physical education class may choose to remove masks when engaged in outdoor activities that require physical exertion.
- Children in interscholastic athletics may choose to remove masks when engaged in practice or competition outdoors that requires physical exertion.
Effective May 31, 2021, attendees at District events shall be limited to a number of attendees that can attend while continuing to maintain appropriate social distancing, as recommended by the CDC and PADOH. Principals will communicate limits for each event in advance.
We will continue to contact trace and notify first-degree contacts in consultation with the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, and we will update the dashboard daily, through June 18, 2021.
2021 Summer School and Beyond
At this time, the health and safety procedures, protocols and requirements for Spartan Academies, Extended School Year, and for the 2021-22 school year have not yet been determined. We are working on our plans now and will communicate to families in mid-June for summer programs and early August for this fall.
I know this has been a challenging, stressful year, but we are excited to be able to celebrate this spring with a return to class activities, field days, and traditional ceremonies for our 5th, 8th, and 12th graders. Our mission continues to be to provide the highest quality educational program for ALL our students, whatever the challenges presented to us. Thank you for continuing to provide our staff and administration, and most importantly, our students, the support we need to be successful.
MaryJo Yannacone, Ed.D., Superintendent
Dear Staff, Parents, and Guardians,
As we head into October, I wanted to provide you with an update regarding our plans for the re-opening of in-person instruction in our schools. I have been closely monitoring continued updates, including from a new Montco Office of Public Health source that provides data for our own Springfield Township, on the coronavirus incidence and positivity rates in our area. I am very happy to report that our positivity rate over the past two weeks is at the lowest levels ever for our area since March! While we are testing more, and many of those tests are negative, the good news remains that our incidence rate is approximately 20 cases per day for every 100,000, which is far below the more typical 35 or so cases per day we were seeing over the summer. The positivity rate is hovering around 1.32% currently, also way below rates that were around 3.5% several weeks ago. This gives us all a strong rationale for trying to get students back into school so that they can enjoy the benefits of in-person learning and socialization.
In order to safely re-open schools, I am once again requesting that you complete the brief survey that will assist us with our planning, at the link below, by Monday, October 12th.
Our current planning calls for opening back up our schools in a hybrid model on Monday, November 9th, at the start of the 2nd marking period. We plan to open ALL schools in a hybrid model, with half our students in on Monday and Tuesday, and the other half in on Thursday and Friday. All learning will be asynchronous on Wednesdays. We hope to do this in such a way, with coordination across buildings, so that siblings can come to school on the same days. This means that our teachers will be teaching with half the class sitting in front of them in school, while the other half of the class is live streaming in from home. The schedule will be different, including more days in person and sooner than November 9th, for our special education students. The reason for this hybrid schedule is that we simply cannot safely socially distance students a minimum of 6 feet apart from themselves and from their teacher unless classes are split in half. This option, just like virtual instruction, has limitations. It is not an ideal environment for our students, and it is not an ideal teaching situation for teachers who are trying to manage students in front of them as well as those at home. However, we do not have enough space in the entire district to spread students out sufficiently unless we only bring in half the number of students each day. Further, the logistics of planning for re-entry are complicated. Every aspect and minute of the day must be carefully designed so that students do not walk or gather together as they typically do in groups, whether on the bus, as they walk into or out of school, in the hallways, or sitting in the cafeteria. Principals have devised plans that replicate the schedules that students are on now so as not to disrupt those existing schedules.
I also wish to make everyone aware that the success of re-opening is dependent on the continued partnership between home and school. So far, our athletes, as an example, have done a remarkable job keeping safe and adhering to everything that we have asked of them, and we have not had any instance of transmission or virus as a result. We hope that all of our families will continue to do their part to ensure that we all adhere to social distancing and wearing masks outside of school, as well as in our schools. We are all in this together, and while we are weary of the restrictions placed on us, we are all well aware of the stories that we have heard about schools that have opened, and have had to shut down again because of positive cases. We do not want that to happen, and we must safeguard the health of every single staff member and student entrusted to us.
If you have specific questions regarding any aspect of our re-opening plans, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR BUILDING PRINCIPAL. While plans are not yet finalized, the principals will be able to address any concerns or questions you may have.
Thank you for your continued support, and parents and guardians, please complete the survey at your earliest convenience.
Dr. Nancy M. Hacker
Message from Dr. Hacker
October 15, 2020
Dear Staff, Parents, and Guardians,
This message is to share some of the planning that is taking place in our buildings prior to the re-entry of students and staff in our hybrid model. Our principals and administrators are working each day to ensure safe and healthy practices and conditions for the return to school. My thanks to those of you who completed the parent or staff surveys, which are helping us to get an idea of who will be back. I would also recommend that you contact your child's teacher(s) and the principal if your choice will be for virtual instruction in the home all five days, so that they all can plan accordingly.
Please take a look at each of the areas covered below, and if you have more specific questions or concerns between now and November 9th, the date of our return, please be sure to contact your building principal. Principals will be communicating additional detailed information regarding the return to school within the next weeks as well.
1. PPE - All classrooms will have ample supplies of disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer (also in hallway dispensers), extra masks, gloves, and protective shields if needed. Please note: Masks will be required to be worn by all students and staff on buses, and in buildings, at all times other than when eating.
2. Building videos - We are developing videos of spaces in each school to share with our families and staff, so that you can view how social distancing in those spaces will be achieved. Videos will highlight distancing between classroom desks, markings in the hallways, and seating for lunch in the cafeteria or other spaces, and should be helpful for reassuring you of what conditions will be within in each school. SEE VIDEO HERE
3. Protocols for suspected cases of COVID - please refer to our website main page at sdst.org, under "COVID-19 Resources at https://www.sdst.org/covid-19-resources/index to see the Montgomery County Office of Public Health Exclusion Guide, and an explanation of the difference between quarantine and isolation. When a report is made of suspected or confirmed exposure or a positive case, we have identified lead individuals in our district who will report this information and work with the Montco OPH to immediately implement contact tracing, notify anyone who might have come into concerning contact in the building with the individual, communicate whether quarantine is warranted, and communicate with staff and/or families as needed.
4. Technology - we recommend that families consider the purchase of ear buds to facilitate learning. We can assist for families who need financial support with these or other tech needs. We have ordered speakers to amplify sound and have ordered additional devices on hand in classrooms to help with instructional delivery.
5. Bus transportation - we will do our best to provide social distancing on our buses, however, we are currently experiencing a shortage in the number of drivers available, so we may need to consolidate runs, which would mean more students on each bus. We will be starting up our non-public bus transportation next week, but once we are also doing public school runs, buses can become more populated. We recommend that siblings sit together. (Please contact our Transportation Dept. if you know of someone who would be interested in training to become a school bus driver for us!)
6. During the week of November 2nd through November 6th, schools will be closed on November 3rd for Election Day. On November 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday - we will have live instruction each morning, but in the afternoons, our teachers will be working on preparing their classrooms for the following week's return to in-person instruction. Therefore all afternoon sessions on those days will be asynchronous.
7. Please help us to keep students and staff safe by keeping children home when ill. This includes those with severe colds, flu-like symptoms including fever, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea. We would also request that you notify the school nurse immediately if any child has been exposed to any individual who has tested positive for coronavirus or who also has been potentially exposed to someone with the virus.
We look forward to welcoming back our students and staff to school on November 9th, and hope this provides you with some information about this return. Thank you for your cooperation, and for working with us to ensure a smooth and safe transition!
Dr. Nancy Hacker
October 29, 2020
Dear Staff, Parents and Guardians,
As we approach our start-up to in-school instruction in our hybrid model on November 9th, there are a few items I wish to bring to your attention. As you are already aware, our staff will be involved in training activities tomorrow afternoon, and every afternoon next week in order to prepare for the return of our students. All staff will be setting up their classrooms and technologies to facilitate communication and instructional delivery for those both in school and at home. They will also be meeting as grade level and department teams, preparing for the return of students, and at Enfield, preparing to orient students to a new school environment as well as to the in-school experience for our young kindergarten children. As you know, we have prepared a video that gives you a good representation of some of the procedures that we have put into place to help students and staff stay safe. Safety precautions will be a major focus of our meetings with staff next week.
At our Board meeting on Monday, November 2nd, the Board will be approving our revised Health and Safety Plan. In addition to the resources located in the COVID-19 section of our website, the Health and Safety Plan outlines many of these individual school building protocols, as well as those on the bus and in cafeterias. The Plan, after its approval next week, will also be posted on our website for your viewing.
At the county level, we are engaged in planning for a presentation for parents by Dr. David Rubin of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, that we will post to our website once completed. The purpose of the video presentation will be to provide parents with critical answers to frequently asked questions, particularly now, with the news of a nationwide surge of the virus in most of our states. A representative group of teachers from all of our county districts had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Rubin this past week, and Board members will have an opportunity to meet with him and other doctors on November 5th. These meetings are being held so that staff, board members, and families can hear from the experts in response to their concerns about this surge of the virus and school re-opening. We are fortunate so far that in Springfield Township, we are still at a very low rate of positivity, and that is true in the county as well, where we are still in the 3.1 to 5% range county-wide. However, we are all aware that this can change, and our major concern is that an exponential increase in positivity rates may be on its way in our region. If that is true, this predicted increase and surge could impact how long our schools remain opened.
I know that many of our families, students, and staff are anxious to return to school for a variety of reasons. Others have concerns, fears and anxiety over bringing students and staff back into schools. I wish to reassure you all that we have, and continue, to work exceptionally hard to be able to bring everyone back safely. We have implemented many protocols to keep everyone safe. We know from the experience of other schools that we can make this work. The experience of other area schools that have opened has shown that there have been many successful openings. But, in order to prevent another shutdown, and a rise in the number of cases we see in our community and in our schools, we must ALL work together. The doctors are advising us that the potential for transmission is greater in cold weather, when respiratory droplets tend to be suspended longer in the air. We know that more flu and other sickness can weaken immune systems. And we know that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays pose threats due to larger gatherings of family and friends. We all must be mindful of this and do everything we can to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission, if we wish to see schools remain open for learning. The greatest barriers to this are a local positivity rate, within our community, that surges to 8% or more, numerous staff outages due to illness or quarantine, and any significant outbreak in a school or across the district. We hope this will not occur, but we will continue to monitor the local data for our area each week so that it can continue to guide our decision-making, along with the other factors mentioned.
Again, as we approach the Halloween holiday, if you plan on having your child(ren) participate in trick or treating or other events, please consider how you can provide a safe, yet enjoyable experience for our children, without risk of exposure, so that they will remain healthy and able to come back to school the following week!
Dr. Nancy Hacker
November 6, 2020
Dear Staff, Families, and Students,
We are eagerly anticipating welcoming back our students into our schools next week. Although we know that there is some anxiety about coming back together, we are confident that throughout our district, we have excellent measures in place for those students whose families have chosen to have them return to in-person learning. Our staff has spent this entire week preparing for next week's re-entry of students. The technologies needed to assist with simultaneous delivery of lessons to students, both in and out of our buildings, are in place. Our teachers have prepared their classroom set-ups, with desks spaced safely apart, with appropriate PPE available. Our buildings are all cleaned and sanitized. In short, we are ready to go!
We remain optimistic that we can deliver hybrid instruction safely to those children who will be returning, but we are also mindful of and realistic about the news of increasing cases, both nationally and in our local region. We are still fortunate that case levels, measured by both incidence and positivity rates, are low in Montgomery County and in Springfield, but numbers are increasing. Incidence rates, a measure of positive cases per 100,000 individuals, in our area are now at 71.29, up from 20 a few weeks ago. Positivity rates, measured as a function of positive cases among those tested, average 4.93% county-wide. Guidance from doctors at the Children's Hospital of Phila. warns us that in colder weather, respiratory droplets can linger longer in the air, which can spark virus transmission. The colder months tend to bring more flu, colds, and other illnesses causing spread of germs, weakening immune systems and leaving many individuals more susceptible to the coronavirus. We know that many people are experiencing "Covid fatigue" and resulting increases in anxiety, stress, and inability to deal with Covid restrictions often lead to a relaxation of precautions.
Nonetheless, we must all continue to do what the doctors have called "surge planning and preparation". We have been assured by infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists that linked transmission events in schools tend to be low. Most transmission occurs outside of a school setting. But, we cannot let our guards down as we are planning to bring children into schools. We will continue to monitor a number of factors to ensure that it is still safe for our schools to remain open. These factors include a two-week steady increase in the incidence rate above 100/100,000 and positivity rates approaching 7% or higher, cases of classroom or building or local transmission, and other specific data about instances, such as parties, events, gatherings, or celebrations that could spark exposure or transmission and lead to a return to virtual instruction for any group of students, a classroom, building, or the entire district. We will continue to work in close conjunction with the Montco Office of Public Health to help us determine if conditions become unsafe and shutdown is needed.
All of the doctors continue to emphasize that the most effective strategies for combatting transmission include 1) the wearing of masks (we have communicated the recommended types of masks to wear), 2) continuous social distancing of at least 6 feet or more, and 3) frequent hand washing. While other measures, such as cleaning of surfaces and ventilation are important, they are not as significant in stopping the spread of the virus as the first three. We urge everyone to bear this in mind, especially as the holiday seasons are approaching. Please help us to keep our staff and children safe, and limit your potential exposures to others by following those three simple steps. We are all in this together! I remain optimistic that we all can do this, and that we can work as partners to allow our children continued opportunities to experience learning and coming together with teachers and classmates throughout the winter months.
Dr. Nancy Hacker
Dear Staff and Families,
Over the past three months I have had the benefit of observing the thoughtful, measured approach Dr. Hacker has taken in determining the course of action for our school district as we’ve navigated the challenges of this pandemic. I’ve also had the opportunity to see first-hand how hard our administration and staff have worked to deliver quality instruction whether in a fully remote or hybrid environment, and I’ve learned about the struggles and successes of our students and their families as they’ve made difficult decisions about whether to remain at home or come into school. It is important to remember that each member of our school community is working their hardest to support our students and to safeguard their health, and that what works for some of us does not work for everyone.
With that in mind, our administrative team has reviewed the data and reflected upon the experiences of our students in both remote and hybrid learning, and how best to continue to deliver educational and support services. Based upon those discussions I have decided that we will plan to resume hybrid instruction on Monday, December 7th. While no instructional model is perfect, the hybrid model allows our students and their families the opportunity to choose the best option for themselves. It also supports the genuine need of many of our students for connection, community, and access to educational, social, emotional and mental health resources not available to the same degree in the virtual environment. For our administrative team and staff, the hybrid model is absolutely more challenging, but we must continue to be committed as a community to supporting our students and their families. However, we will need the cooperation of everyone if we are to be successful, especially through the winter months.
As you know, infection rates have risen in recent weeks in the state and county, as well as in Springfield Township. If we are to keep our students, families, staff and administration safe and healthy, everyone must commit to following the guidelines recommended by the CDC and the Montgomery County Department of Health to mitigate the spread of the virus. Later this week a new dashboard will be added to the district website which will share updated information on a weekly basis regarding the rates of infection in our region and active case counts in each of our schools. We will continue to work with the Montgomery County Office of Public Health to determine how to respond to individual cases of illness and the need to quarantine, deep clean, or move to virtual instruction for a period of time.
In order to remain safe and healthy and to continue in the hybrid instructional model we will need everyone to do their part. Please wear a mask whenever you are in close contact with those outside your immediate household, stay home if experiencing symptoms, and wash your hands. These simple efforts will help us to continue to support all of our students and to keep our staff, who are working harder than ever before, safe in our schools. Tomorrow, principals will be sending parents an email requesting notice for any changes to your child’s current status, whether a member of the Virtual, Spartan (4-day), Blue or Steel cohort for the remainder of December. There will be another opportunity to make a change after the winter break, and another once again in late January.
Please direct any questions about your child’s educational plan to the building Principal. You may also visit our Health Services webpage for further information. I look forward to getting to know you all better as I transition into my new role over the next week.
MaryJo Yannacone, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools Elect (12/5/2020)
Dear SDST Staff and Families,
Yesterday, Governor Wolf issued a new Order in which he outlined a series of protective mitigation efforts to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate in the state and to assist our hospitals in managing those they are treating who have grown more seriously ill as a result of the virus. The Order begins Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and concludes Monday, January 4, 2021 at 8:00 a.m.
This Order does not affect our current model of in-person/hybrid instruction, which will continue next week as planned. Families who have chosen virtual instruction this month and would like to make a change to in-person/hybrid instruction in January are asked to contact your child’s Principal to notify them prior to winter break so they plan accordingly.
While a number of the components of the Governor’s Order do not affect schools, two specific sections directly impact extracurricular activities. Those sections read as follows:
In-Person Extracurricular School Activities
Voluntary activities sponsored or approved by a school entity’s governing body or administration are suspended, but these extracurricular activities may be held virtually. This includes, but is not limited to, attendance at or participation in activities such musical ensembles, school plays, student council, clubs, and school dances.
K-12 School Sports and Youth Sports
All sports at K-12 public schools, nonpublic schools, private schools and clubs, travel, recreational, intramural, and intramural sports are paused.
We support the Governor’s Order and will comply with the new guidelines, as follows:
- All winter sports teams will suspend in-person practices beginning tomorrow, Saturday December 12th. Coaches are encouraged to provide virtual at-home training sessions for student athletes to complete during this period to assist them in maintaining their physical and mental fitness.
- All extracurricular activities will continue to be offered virtually, as feasible. Club advisors will communicate details with members of their groups over the next three weeks in order to support continued outlets for our students in activities that support their interests.
Thank you for your continued support of our students. Please direct any questions regarding this Order to your child’s Principal or the Athletic Director.
MaryJo Yannacone, Ed.D.
December 23, 2020
Dear SDST Families,
I hope that this message finds you and your family safe, healthy and looking forward to the next few weeks as an opportunity to unplug, reflect and celebrate together. While this year has had much adversity for all of us, I take great comfort in knowing that we share a belief in the well being of our students as our top priority. Yesterday I shared this video to celebrate our achievements this year as a school community. After viewing it I hope you'll feel the same sense of pride in what we’ve accomplished and optimism for the future that I do!
I am also grateful that we have been able to successfully reopen our schools and provide all families options for continuing their children’s education, whether virtual or in person. We continue to work as a staff and administration to follow all guidelines that will allow us to reopen on January 4, 2021 and to remain open for the benefit of our students. We could not have been successful without your support. Please help us over the winter break by supporting these measures:
If you travel outside PA, please follow the guidelines below:
- Anyone over the age of 11, entering Pennsylvania from other countries and states, as well as Pennsylvanians who are returning home from other countries or states, must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth or quarantine for 10 days upon entry into Pennsylvania.
- If a traveler chooses to get tested upon entering the Commonwealth, or is waiting for test results, the traveler must quarantine for 10 days, or until receipt of a negative test result, whichever comes first.
- The following exemptions are in place from this Order:
- Individuals traveling to and from PA for the purpose of work
- Individuals traveling to and from PA for medical reasons, including providing comfort and support to the patient
- Individuals who are returning to PA after traveling outside of PA for less than 24 hours
- Military personnel traveling by order or directive of a state or Federal military authority
- Individuals in transit through PA to another destination
- Individuals complying with a court order (including child custody)
For additional information, please review the information contained on the PADOH state website: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Travelers.aspx
Health and Safety
Please continue to follow four simple steps to keeping us all healthy:
- Wear a mask whenever outside your home or with your immediate family
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water
- Maintain a distance of at least six feet from those outside your home
- Do not send children to school if they have any symptoms or if they have been exposed to anyone who is symptomatic for COVID-19
We look forward to the New Year and hope that you and your families will join us in committing to these guidelines. We are excited and optimistic for the many opportunities we plan to bring to our students in 2021!
MaryJo Yannacone, Ed.D.
March 18, 2021
I hope this email finds you safe and well. At last evening's meeting of the Board of School Directors, the revised Health and Safety Plan was approved for our planned change of program for April 5 - June 18, 2021. The revision allows for hybrid instruction four days each week for students in grades k-12, while maintaining a fully virtual option for those who choose it. Based upon parent surveys returned to date, following are the cohorts beginning in April:
- High School: 72% in person; 28% virtual
- Middle School: 83% in person; 17% virtual
- Erdenheim: 89% in person; 11% virtual
- Enfield: 94% in person; 6% virtual
In order to support these numbers in-person, and in keeping with current knowledge regarding effective mitigation measures in schools, we have modified the Health and Safety Plan to allow 3-6 feet of social distance between students in grades k-8. We are maintaining 6 feet of social distance between high school students, between students and staff in k-12, and between staff in all instances. The universal masking of students and staff will continue to be required through June, as will all current mitigation measures for sanitizing, hand washing, and ventilation. We are excited to continue to safely expand access to in-person instruction after spring break, while maintaining flexibility in a virtual option for families who prefer that for this year.
Families are cautioned that we are not yet out of the pandemic, and while the Governor has lifted travel restrictions and increased capacity indoors and outdoors, we must remain vigilant as a community to avoid a spike in cases. State, county, and township rates of transmission continue to decline, and we want it to stay that way.
We have also heard from families that it is important to limit the number of days each week that students are working from home. As a result, please note the following adjustments to the calendar for this spring:
- Monday, April 5th - Asynchronous day
- Wednesday, April 7th - Synchronous, in-person day
- Wednesday, April 28th - Half-day, asynchronous
- Friday, April 30th - Full day, synchronous, in-person
- Monday, May 31st - Memorial Day, no school
- Wednesday, June 2nd - Full day, synchronous, in-person
Please let your child's Principal know if you have any questions regarding their cohort or calendar of events. Thank you!
MaryJo Yannacone, Ed.D.
Dear Erdenheim and Enfield Families,
This email is intended to provide an update on COVID cases at our elementary schools in the past week. We currently have four cases at Enfield and three cases at Erdenheim. This is in addition to four cases across the two buildings of children who were at home when they became symptomatic and therefore were not contagious at school. Thus, we currently have eleven known cases of COVID-19 among our two elementary schools, all of whom are children.
Our health team, which consists of our school nurses, Director of Support Services, Director of Human Resources/Pandemic Liaison, and I have met today with the Montgomery County Office of Public Health (MCOPH) to investigate, review, and analyze these cases to determine any potential linkage. Following the MCOPH guidelines, we have contact traced and quarantined over 70 students across the two buildings and transportation. We will continue to evaluate our bus routes and work to balance enrollment on our buses as feasible. We ask that families reinforce the importance of mask compliance on our buses, and that children keep windows open on the buses to support ventilation.
At this time, and after consultation with MCOPH, one classroom at Enfield is being moved to virtual learning to allow for quarantining. We are hopeful that further movement of classes, grades, or whole schools to virtual learning will not be necessary, provided cases do not continue to climb, which will require us all to work together. I am asking your assistance in minimizing any further spread of the virus by strictly adhering to mitigation measures we know are successful. These include screening your child every day, keeping your child home if any symptoms exist, maintaining mask compliance in public spaces, and avoiding large social gatherings.
Our health team is working hard to contact trace in a timely manner, and our staff is diligently following all mitigation measures in our schools and buses. With your assistance at home and in the community, we can continue to offer our students four days of in-person instruction. Should you have any questions, please contact your building principal or school nurse.
MaryJo Yannacone, Ed.D.