ASD Superintendent Recommends Opening Schools Virtually for Fall 2020

ASD Superintendent Recommends Opening Schools Virtually for Fall 2020
Posted on 07/27/2020
ALLENTOWN, PA — As schools across the country plan to reopen schools this fall, the Allentown School District has intentionally created opportunities for stakeholder groups to provide input during the planning phase. Information and feedback received through surveys and meetings, and from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Allentown County Health Department, and local healthcare providers, drove district discussions and communication through this challenging process.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and gaps in the national supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE), the district must act to protect the health and safety of all staff and students during this time. 

Therefore, under the leadership of our Board of School Directors, the Allentown School District is recommending that all ASD schools will open the 2020-21 school year virtually.  The Board of Directors approved this recommendation at the regular board meeting, which took place virtually on Thursday, July 23 at 7 PM. Providing a face to face instructional model for the 2020-21 school year remains our ultimate goal. We will work to create safe entry points that correlate with the academic calendar to allow groups of students to return to the building.  

The board will review and assess the feasibility of opening to groups of students in a timely fashion. The plan for re-entry will be based on health and safety factors that include, but are not limited to, community spread, local contact tracing, and the acquisition of PPE to ensure the district can effectively adhere to disinfecting and sanitizing protocols.

“With each crisis comes opportunity. In this case, I am pleased to introduce ASD’s Virtual Campus. Building off our Virtual Academy, the ASD Virtual Campus will launch on the first day of school, Tuesday, September 8,” said Thomas Parker, Allentown School District Superintendent. “This innovative learning opportunity, which we originally planned to launch later in the year, provides an excellent opportunity for our students and staff to continue teaching and learning, despite the pandemic.” 

The Virtual Campus also allows ASD to move forward with the Strategic Framework, where personalized learning and instruction for our students is emphasized. Specifically, the ASD Strategic Framework identified that we would:
Enhance and expand the use of technology to provide anytime, anywhere learning
Develop a districtwide 1:1 device model
Develop external partnerships to support digital access for all students

Launching the Virtual Campus enables ASD to keep the learning process moving forward during this difficult time. With face to face instruction moved to a date later in the fall, the District believes this is the best decision to avoid compromise when it comes to the safety of our students and staff. 

ASD continues to consult the Lehigh County Health Bureau, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The guidance we receive will drive our decision making now, and in the weeks, and months ahead. 

The district will announce further updates in the coming weeks, using the School Messenger voicemail and email system. Updates will also be posted on the designated ASD Opening of Schools page, along with district and school social media channels. 

We thank our entire school district community for your understanding and patience. We know that not everyone will agree with every decision we make. However, please know that we are acting in a way that minimizes risks for our students, staff, and families.