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Interview #3 with Superintendent John Toleno
March 31, 2020
Dear Parents/Guardians, Students and Staff:
I would like to take some time to provide you all with another update regarding COVID-19 and how we, as a school community, will continue to deal with all of the myriad of issues surrounding this situation.
As most of you already know, the Governor has extended school closures for an indefinite period of time due to the spread of COVID-19. More specifically for the Upper Merion Area School District, that means we will remain closed at least until April 30th. I certainly wish I had more information about whether or not the closing will last longer but I simply do not, hence I will not even begin to try to provide a guess. The only thing I do know is that WE as a school community must do our part to prevent the spread of this virus and that means that we should all be practicing good “social distancing” to every extent possible!
With that being said, we have rolled out our educational programming to our students and I have received great feedback from many people and there have been some amazing posts on Facebook and Twitter of some very creative activities done by our families, students and staff! Please know that I am grateful for your patience as we navigate this new “system” together as I realize that there is certainly going to be a “learning curve” in all that we do going forward.
We are currently working on a plan to get the K-4 iPads out to our students and that will not be able to happen until the week of April 13th. The reasons for this are quite simple. The first reason is that we do not currently have the charging cords available as something that we had easy access to obtain. The fact is that the charging cords for the iPads are built into the storage cabinets that are utilized in each of our elementary classrooms. In the meantime, we were lucky enough to receive our “refresh” of all of our computers and iPads and we are now unboxing the new iPads and pulling out the charging cords to hand out with the existing iPads.
The unboxing of the iPads is not as simple as one might think because I will not put multiple people in the room to do this task. It is time consuming as I will not risk the safety of any of our people. The second reason why this process has to be put off until the week of the 13th is because I will not allow this process to take place until such time as we have a plan in place that protects those people who are distributing the iPads and those who are picking up the iPads! Part of our plan to hand these out will be that all of our workers will be wearing face masks and gloves and good social distancing practices will be followed. Please stay tuned as to the delivery of a very clear and concise schedule that must be adhered to in order for this process to be successful.
I am very proud of the fact that through the efforts of Mrs. Penny Bartlett, Food Service Supervisor, and Mr. Fred Remelius, Director of Operations, we have distributed over 5000 meals out of the Bridgeport Elementary School! Mr. Tim Bickhart, Bridgeport Principal, and other cafeteria staff have been present for each and every food distribution. I cannot thank them enough for their efforts. We will be moving this operation to the Middle School after the spring break as we have much more capacity to serve larger numbers of people out of the Middle School. Announcements of specific days and times will be forthcoming. The Bridgeport residents who took advantage of this program will still be able to participate. The only thing that has changed is the location and once again that change is so we can make an impact on many more people! Since there were fewer than 10 people total who participated in the walk through line at Bridgeport, we will figure out a way to get food to those individuals as needed.
For those of you who are wondering what effect, if any, this COVID-19 issue will have on the high school building project, I would like to explain where we currently stand in this regard. I have moved the bid date back to May 19th as we were supposed to collect bids for the project in early April. The main reason for this move is due to several reasons. Not the least of which is that our bidders are not able to get “solid” numbers from vendors in order to provide the most competitive bids for the school district. In other words, there are so many suppliers and service providers out there that are currently closed. It is very difficult to get the most detailed information that we need so I am hoping that this extended date will help in the process.
Another reason for pushing back the bid deadline is so that we, the school district, can better process what our financial situation will be going forward. My hope is that the stimulus package that has been introduced into the economy will do its part in jumpstarting the economy once we are all cleared to resume our lives as normal. However, if that is not the case we as a District have already put several practices in place in order to better protect our financial stability. Putting off the collection of bids is one of those practices. This may wind up delaying the project for a period of time. Right now this is the best decision that gives us the most opportunity to protect the District, from a financial perspective, until we have a better idea of where the economy will wind up. As more information becomes available I will certainly provide that to you all.
I have also been asked about end of year activities and how they will be handled when and if we get back to school. Please note that we will do our best to figure out which activities can still happen and we will do our best to figure out a calendar of events once we get back to school. Needless to say, we are all anticipating a return to school but for now we will do our best in dealing with the situation at hand.
I have heard about inconsistent connectivity issues with Schoology and please know that the issues are not on our end. Just to put this in perspective, Schoology has seen a tremendous increase in “traffic” over the past several days and they have dedicated a great deal of resources to continue to solve the connectivity problem. I am sure they will get this figured out so I once again ask for your patience as they work through this matter.
I have also been asked to address the reasons for the closing of our playground areas, more specifically our playground equipment. This decision was based on the fact that numerous families were allowing their children to spend time on and around our equipment without following good social distancing guidelines. Not to mention the fact that the school district will not expend resources trying to clean the equipment. Additionally, once I found out that the Townships were shutting down access to their playground equipment, I believed it was the appropriate decision based on safety and consistency.
To all who are reading this update, I ask that you appreciate and embrace the situation that we are ALL facing. Many individuals are at home with loved ones who may be sick or may have just been laid off, while juggling kids at home who need to be educated. In many cases, teachers are home learning a new delivery methodology while managing the same issues mentioned above. What I am asking for is a continued collective patience as we navigate these uncharted waters together as we cannot afford to be divided during these challenging times. Please continue to stay positive, practice good social distancing and support one another to whatever extent possible!
I thank each and every one of you for your support and for all that you have done to provide learning at home to those that we serve! Be well and stay safe as that is our number one priority in all of this.
March 30, 2020
Letter from C & I regarding Flipgrid - includes Spanish and Arabic translation
March 25, 2020
Elementary Parents/Guardians/Caregivers 3-25-2020 - includes Spanish and Arabic translation
Secondary Parents/Guardians/Caregivers 3-25-2020 - includes Spanish and Arabic translation