CLEARFIELD – Parents raised concerns about students not receiving enough instruction time and needing to return to classes during Monday’s Clearfield Area School Board meeting.
The meeting, held via Zoom, included a time for the public to make comments. Chris Semelsberger spoke for most parents when she addressed the board with her concerns.
She said she has three children at Clearfield Area Elementary School and said that she, as well as other parents, feel their children have suffered academically as well as socially and mentally from the amount of time outside of the classroom and what they’ve been bringing home is essentially homework.
She asked about when the district plans to return to full-time, in-class instruction and how the district plans on students reaching the required 180 days of instruction.
Another concern, she raised, was the promised wi-fi hotspots for families that do not have reliable Internet access.
Other parents expressed similar concerns, with one noting that the students in Group A instruction are academically ahead of Group B, creating additional delays.
A parent asked about DuBois Area School District, which has been able to hold in-person instruction at the schools throughout the school year.
Another parent raised concerns about teachers only teaching for about 15 minutes in a period, and then letting the students on their own.
Superintendent Terry Struble was able to answer some of the concerns and said he would talk with staff at Clearfield Elementary about the rest.
He said that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania listed Clearfield County as “substantial” in the number of COVID-19 cases until today, when the status was changed to “moderate.” The status is what the districts use to determine how much time is spent inside the classroom.
Even through the county is at “moderate,” Struble said they need a two-week window to see if cases are still going to remain low, or if there is going to be another rise.
Struble also said that the district was approved for wi-fi hot spots from T-Mobile around Christmas, and have started receiving devices and are trying to get them out to families who need them and have mobile wireless service at their home.
He said the district is also working with the state on datacasting through Public Television stations.
In regards to DuBois and other districts being able to have more in-class instruction, Struble said different districts have different space available to allow for more social distancing, and also the amount of time spent in-class or virtual is a decision made by the administration and school boards.
As for student groups being behind, teachers only teaching for a short time and other concerns, Struble said he would have to meet with principals at the school and investigate the concerns.
Later in the meeting, during a discussion about the school calendar, board member Phil Carr expressed concerns about returning students to classes too soon, noting that many of the students have lost more than one family member to COVID-related illness.
He noted that the British variant will be showing up in the area soon, and another variant, which is said to be more virulent and deadly, could come at some point, but hopefully not.
Carr added that they have had issues with adequate space at the elementary school before COVID-19 and now the problem is even more concerning. “I’m concerned about safety,” he said.
The other board members confirmed that they, too, are concerned for the safety of students and their families and that needs to be the item on the forefront of decisions.