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August 7, 2020
August 7, 2020
I hope this message finds you and your family well. I would like to first start by thanking you for completing the CCIU families survey as your participation and feedback have allowed us to accelerate our planning processes for the start of the school year. As a dad of three children, as a family with two working parents, as an educator and as the CCIU’s executive director, I understand the anxiety and stress that the uncertainty surrounding the start of school has caused for all of us.
The survey results show that a majority of staff and students are ready to return to our buildings and programs, which is a testament to the trust between the CCIU and our stakeholders. You can view staff and program-specific survey results that reflect preferences on how to begin the 2020-21 school year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives in a way that may not be fully realized for many years to come. Since before the mandatory shutdown, the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) has worked hard to support our staff, students, families and school district partners as we navigated the pandemic as a community. As an intermediate unit, we have an obligation to make sure that any plans we make are inclusive of the differing needs of all we serve and therefore have kept that in the forefront of our planning efforts.
The guiding principle throughout this entire process has been and will continue to be prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff. After working closely with the state and county health departments, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and medical professionals from Penn Medicine and Mainline Health, our plan is to recommend in-person, hybrid and online learning options to accommodate students from all of our sending school districts. Two major factors in deciding to offer in-person instruction is that the CCIU has access to approximately one million square feet of space spanning over 30 facilities. Additionally, based on survey feedback and school district plans, we anticipate approximately 35% fewer students in our facilities than we would in a typical school year.
In addition to our ability to practice safe social distancing within our spaces, we have invested in the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for in-person instruction. While we are implementing social distancing and PPE policies, we also understand that, due to the nature of education and the student populations we serve, there may be times when less than six feet of social distancing may occur. To address this, we have developed protocols for when six feet of distance cannot be maintained. Interactions within six feet will last less than 15 minutes whenever possible and will require additional PPE, such as gloves, protective gowns, facemasks and shoe coverings.
Additionally, we recognize that deep cleaning, sanitizing and the disinfecting of the CCIU facilities is one of the primary concerns expressed by parents and staff alike. The CCIU has acquired specialized equipment, systems and training so that we can continue to service each location based on building use and the manufacturer's recommendations. We will have increased cleaning throughout the day of high-touch surfaces, and the use of electrostatic cleaners for sanitizing after the school/workday.
We understand that there are a lot of concerns regarding the beginning of the school year and we want to assure you that this decision was made in collaboration with our stakeholders while taking into account the safety of our staff and students. As you know, the CCIU serves some of the county’s most vulnerable populations and we recognize that in-person instruction is at times necessary to ensure that every student has equitable access to educational resources. We thank the nearly 500 task force participants in crafting the CCIU’s 2020-21 Health & Safety Plan. For more information regarding the CCIU’s policies and protocols, please read the official 2020-21 Health & Safety plan. We are presenting the plan to our CCIU Board of Directors for their approval at our August 19 Board meeting.
As we get ready to begin the 2020-21 school year, we want to make sure that we are as prepared as possible to accommodate the needs of our students, families and staff. As a result, the start date for preschool special education programs will now begin on Monday, August 31, 2020. The start date for Head Start programs will now begin on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. All other CCIU students, as well as TCHS students will begin the school year either in-person or online as scheduled on Monday, August 31, 2020.
Each preschool special education and Head Start family will be receiving more detailed information about their schedule the week of August 10, 2020 while all other CCIU and TCHS families will be receiving more detailed information about their schedule the week of August 17, 2020.
Last, but not least, I want to thank you for your flexibility and patience as we navigated the planning, and re-planning, of reopening our buildings and programs, and for your support throughout the pandemic. The health and safety of our students and staff continues to be our top priority, and the CCIU is committed to protecting everyone’s well-being first and foremost. I know this school year will look different from past years, but I believe the way we choose to respond to these circumstances will set the tone for our students moving forward. I look forward to making the most of the 2020-21 school year with you!
I hope you and your family enjoy the rest of the summer and continue to remain well. Continue to social distance, wear a mask in public and wash your hands frequently. These simple precautions, if followed by each and every one of us, will help us to defeat this virus. Together, we can ensure the health and safety of our community.
Dr. George F. Fiore
Chester County Intermediate Unit