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Posted on 12/15/2020

Dear School Community,

The district will revert to virtual learning at all schools and for all students beginning Wednesday, December 16th until Wednesday, December 23rd. Thursday, December 17th will be a snow day and students will be off from school. The district will reopen on Monday, January 4th in hybrid learning, as the 14 day rolling period for positive case counts, mandated by the Departments of Health and Education, will reset at zero.


The best analogy that I can use to describe the last few days in the District is that I feel like an air traffic controller who has multiple planes trying to land on the same runway at the same time. There are so many factors that are impacting the last few days leading up to Winter Break. From a health perspective, we have been forced to close three schools. Just this morning we learned that BSES has its second case and must revert to virtual learning. Now, only Concord Elementary School and Garnet Valley Middle School are below the mandated case count thresholds. Simultaneously, the early weather forecasting is predicting a significant winter storm beginning in earnest Wednesday afternoon and ending early Thursday morning. Analyzing these factors, I also noted that there  are only six days before break and two of the days are already scheduled as virtual.


Returning to virtual learning leading up to Winter Break gives students, parents, teachers, and support staff an opportunity for consistency in their school, work, and family schedules as it eliminates a constant cycle of opening and closing schools as the district continues to follow the mandated guidelines of the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education. It also allows the district to prioritize consistency after Winter Break, as our case counts will reset giving us the greatest chance for an extended period of hybrid learning. Although we cannot guarantee how long we will be able to remain open, we will have a fresh 14 day rolling period to start with and increase our opportunity to move in the right direction as hopefully the new year will bring much needed “resolution” to 2020’s turbulence.  


As for the snow days, we are blessed in Garnet Valley to have the hardware, software, and expertise to teach our students virtually. However, as parents and/or educators we also recognize that the first snow is a special occasion, especially when it falls during the holiday season. As a result, we are using one of the three snow days that are built into our calendar to provide our children a reprieve from the disruptions and restrictions that COVID has brought to their lives so that they can get away from the screens and enjoy some fun outside. I believe fun has been sorely missed by our kids, and we need to find a way to provide it–albeit with all of the appropriate health precautions. Additionally, with the amount of forecasted snow, we wanted to guard against power outages, network issues, etc.


As with every decision that we make during the pandemic, I’m sure that there will be those who adamantly oppose my decision, as there will be an equal number who support it. Nevertheless, understand that we remain committed to getting our students back in school for in person learning as quickly and safely as possible. We also remain committed to their social and emotional health, so although a snow day during virtual learning may sound counterintuitive, how much more can we possibly impose on our kids? One day over the nine months of this pandemic, we believe, is a worthwhile accommodation. Finally, we need to acknowledge that our school community also needs consistency, and we believe that our plan meets these factors as well as possible given the known and unknown challenges that currently exist. 


Thank you for your support, flexibility, and cooperation. I wish everyone a wonderful Winter Break!

Dr. Marc Bertrando, Superintendent

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