Chesco school districts poised to resume in-person classes

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Some Chester County school districts moved this week to bring students and teachers back into county classrooms as early as October — with one school district formally approving a plan this week to reopen school buildings next month.

Meanwhile, school districts around the county approved a return to interscholastic sports practices this week and games are poised to return in the near future.

The school districts are making these moves as new COVID-19 cases appear to be easing down in Chester County from a spike earlier this month — although districts around the county are moving at different paces as they evaluate the situation.

The Unionville Chadds Ford School District Board of Education voted Monday to resume some in-person education on Oct. 12, while other districts are still in the planning stages — awaiting board of education approval for final plans.

At this writing, it appears that the West Chester Area School District will resume in person classes on Oct. 19, if COVID numbers continue to be stable. The Kennett Area School District is looking at a potential in-person date of Oct. 26. Oxford is also planning for a phased in restart with K-2 on Oct. 26 at the earliest, then grades 3-6 about a week later and then 6-12 shortly thereafter. Other county school districts have not announced their plans as yet, although most are looking at restarts no later than early November, if conditions permit.

Meanwhile, it looks like there will be some sort of fall sports season for local schools — most schools in the county have approved a restart of formal practices as of Monday. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association is expected to approve modified schedules — and it is expected that the Ches Mont Conference, which had postponed the fall season, will work to create modified sports schedules starting some time in October.

UCF looks to be among the first in the county to begin in-person classes, with kindergarten through fifth grade starting on a half-day basis (split between morning and afternoon sessions to reduce class density), on Monday, Oct. 12, at the district’s four elementary schools. Should that process go well — and COVID numbers remain steady or falling — the UCF board will vote on Oct. 12 whether to allow students in sixth through 12th grade to resume in-person classes, two out of six days per cycle (UCF uses a six-day class cycle).

Parents will have the option to opt out of in-person learning.

The West Chester Area School District looks to be following along a similar path, although its plans remain tentative — with a school board vote expected next Monday night. The proposed schedule would have K-5 students return on Oct. 19 on a hybrid schedule, with students in 6th through 12th grade returning on Nov. 5.

The Kennett Area School District is currently looking at a return to in-person instruction on Oct. 26 — again with K-5 students, with grades 6 through 12 resuming on Nov. 13. Again, the plan remains tentative and must be approved by the board of education.

The Downingtown Area School District currently has tentative plans to begin bringing students in for classes on Nov. 6, but the details of the plan have not been formally approved — and remain subject to change based on the situation.

Meanwhile, interscholastic sports were poised to begin this week, starting with golf. All high school sports were given the green light to begin practice last Monday and are expected to get modified schedules from their local leagues — most schools in the county are part of the Ches Mont Conference. Football will likely be among the last sports to restart — not likely before the first week of October, although schedules have not been finalized.

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