• July 7, 2020

    Dear Parents/Guardians,

    Kindly read this letter in its entirety. 

    UMASD Information on Reopening

    Please see information with regard to the District’s reopening plans. Please note that all plans are tentative as we are following CDC and Pennsylvania state guidelines which are subject to change. At this time, please read our current plans then click on the survey link at the bottom. If Montgomery County is in the red or yellow phase, the UMASD Virtual Learning Program will be our mode of teaching and learning. If Montgomery County is in the green phase, students will have in-person teaching and learning with the option of virtual learning.

    In-Person Instruction:

    • Schools will be open on a regular schedule for all students.
    • Outdoor and other large spaces will be optimized for use during the school day.
    • Classroom configurations will be altered to maintain at least three (3) feet distance between students with all desks facing forward.  All students and staff will be required to wear masks while in school unless: the students are eating or drinking while spaced at least six (6) feet apart, seated at desks at least six (6) feet apart and while they are engaged in any activity while at least six (6) feet apart.  During ALL other times of the day, students and staff must wear masks as per the Governor’s order of July 1, 2020.
    • All cafeteria spaces will be rearranged to assure that all students face the same direction while eating and when not possible to fit all students into the respective cafeterias, alternate places for eating will be provided.
    • Education about washing hands will be communicated on a regular basis and posted throughout the District. Time for frequent hand-washing and sanitizing will be built into the school day.
    • CDC approved sanitizing products and equipment will be used to strengthen hygiene practices throughout the school day. Disinfection and cleaning common areas will occur on a daily basis.
    • School buses will operate with two students per seat and all students will be required to wear face masks.
    • Non-essential visitors will NOT be permitted to enter the school buildings. Essential visitors will be limited and subject to a health screening questionnaire completed before entering the building.
    • We will require self monitoring (e.g., temperature and symptom screening) and checks for history of exposure.  This self monitoring will be completed at home by parents/caregivers and staff members before use of school transportation and arriving at school.
    • The school will monitor health when students and staff are present in the building only when symptoms are present and/or suspected.  The school district will also monitor absenteeism to identify trends for students and staff alike.  We will also encourage parents to keep sick children home and encourage staff to stay home if they are sick.

    Upper Merion Area School District Virtual Learning Program: UMASD will be offering a Virtual Academy for those children who will not be able to attend school in 2020-2021, due their own health concerns or those of their families. This no-cost option for virtual learning will use resources from outside vendors such as the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit Virtual Academy. Please note that our virtual learning program will not be as it was during the first three months of school closure. Our staff  is trained in virtual learning and we have developed a robust and comprehensive virtual experience for your child(ren.) In addition, this program will be available in the event of a short-term and/or long-term closure.

    • Students will have access to their District iPad/Laptop as well as appropriate materials and resources.
    • District teachers will be assigned to teach virtually with the exception of MCIU Virtual and other vendor courses.
    • Teaching and learning will be a combination of synchronous (live, at the same time) and asynchronous (recorded, viewed at any time) through the Schoology platform.
    • Students will follow a set schedule as with the in-person schedules. Our expectation is that the students will be engaged during their respective school level hours.
    • Virtual learning curriculum will mirror our in-person curriculum. Curriculum tailored to meet UMASD requirements and PA Core Standards.
    • Students will need the assistance of a parent or guardian (Learning Coach) to navigate their schedule and support for their learning. There will be continued support from school counselors and administrators.
    • Enrolled students would be expected to stay in the virtual program for a semester.

    Survey Link: https://forms.gle/Rsk8e4gxquMKFGnm8 (click on link or copy & paste to a browser)

    In the event that our county is in “green” and schools will reopen, please indicate your preference at this point in time. One response per household. Another survey will be distributed on August 3rd to finalize your decision so the District may complete the safety and learning plans.

    From: UMASD Administration Team

    June 18, 2020

    Dear Parents, Guardians and Staff members,
    Needless to say, this has been a school year full of great challenges.  We have had to face this COVID-19 pandemic while trying to maintain some sense of order as it pertained to our educational programming.   I certainly appreciate the way in which each and every one of you adjusted to the various struggles that we faced and I am very proud of the way in which we all supported one another through these difficult times!

    The purpose of this update is to provide you with some insights as to what the future will look like in regards to our return to school, as we get closer to our start date in August.  I also plan to provide some insights regarding athletics and extra-curricular programs as well.  While the health and safety of our students and staff is paramount, our goal is to get our students and staff back into our schools with as much “normalcy” as possible as I plan on opening schools on our regularly scheduled date of August 31, 2020 as long as Montgomery County is  “green”! 

    As we plan on our return, we are currently in development of a comprehensive Health and Safety Plan as required by the Department of Education.  This plan will drive all of our actions and responses pertaining to this COVID-19 pandemic and once the plan is approved by the Board of Education, the plan will be available for review on our website.  We are also currently working on a plan, which will allow our student athletes and band members the ability to begin to partake in those activities that are so important in their educational journey.  We expect some of these activities to begin as early as July 1st if we are in a “green” condition here in Montgomery County. 

    I know that many of you want to learn what the return to school will look like and what specific changes we will make in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I can assure you that we will be utilizing guidance provided by multiple sources while choosing what will be best for our students and staff at the Upper Merion Area School District.  To every extent possible, we will be opening with the fewest restrictions feasible while still maintaining our number one goal of keeping our students and staff safe! 

    As part of this plan, we will make classroom and building configuration changes where possible to promote social distancing and safety without compromising the learning environment.  We are working with our transportation provider in order to assure the safest environment possible while students are being transported to and from school.  Additionally, we are stockpiling cleaning supplies so we can keep up on what will prove to be a very rigorous cleaning routine for each of our buildings. 

    Currently, we are not planning on having students wear masks but that could change if we receive guidance that would force us to go in another direction.  As of now staff members would be required to wear masks but that could also change as these requirements/guidelines are constantly being updated!  Needless to say, we will continue to monitor guidance and emerging data regarding COVID-19 and we will adjust our plans accordingly should it become necessary.
    The Upper Merion Area School District will continue to provide an online program for those students who elect not to return to school due to health concerns.  Please note that we do not have the option of “live streaming” our classes into your homes as that is not feasible at this time.  I will also ask that if you choose to keep your child home due to health concerns and participate in our online program, you must commit to at least one (1) marking period as you will not have the option to pick and choose various days of the week to send your child or keep them home.  We will be sending out a survey in order to ascertain whether or not you will have your child participate in this program so that we can plan from an instructional perspective.

    Please note that very soon you will hear from Right at School who is our before and after school care provider.  They will be offering a “camp/daycare” program this summer for our students.  The program is slated to begin on or around July 6th and will run until August.  The program will be offered at the Caley Elementary School and you will see advertising in the near future so please stay tuned! 

    I want to thank all of you for your patience, flexibility and of course resilience while we navigated and continue to navigate this COVID-19 pandemic together.  Please know that my number one goal is to open school on our regularly scheduled date of August 31st while still providing the safest environment possible for the students and staff we serve.  I will continue to communicate with you as I have been doing as more information becomes available. 

    Be well,
    Dr. Toleno

    May 28, 2020

    Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff Members,

    I wanted to spend some time providing another update to each of you as we continue to navigate this COVID-19 issue together.  I also want you all to know how much I appreciate all of your efforts during these “interesting” times and I know we will come out of this as a better school district and community!  

    I completely understand that this may not have been an easy transition for the teachers, parents, and students but I believe that everyone has adapted to this new reality in a manner that is exemplary!  We were clearly thrown into this situation with no advance notice and the resolve and flexibility shown by each of you is truly inspiring.  Please know that I am grateful that this was a coordinated effort by so many to provide a strong, new form of instructional practice to our students in such a successful manner.  

    At this point in time, I am continuing to work with and communicate with all of our stakeholders here in the District.  These communications include the continued operation of our learning program and the business of the district.  I, along with others, have been working on plans to be sure that we will soon be ready to begin construction on the new High School!  In fact, we have received bids accordingly and we are approximately 8.5 million dollars below our projection and at a time when good news was needed, that is certainly good news!  At this point in time, we may be awarding bids for the project as early as June with a potential groundbreaking to take place later this summer!  

    Many of the communications I have been having are directly related to providing positive experiences to all of our students as they relate to end of year activities.  We will be holding virtual ceremonies for our graduating seniors and our 8th grade students who will be “moving up” from the Middle School to the High School.  Additionally, we are working on other virtual plans for our fourth grade students as they will be entering a new building next year as well!  I hope you can see that we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences as possible to those we serve as we wind down the school year.  

    I completely understand some of the frustrations that you may be having as I too have a son who graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in May and we were not able to have a formal celebration for him.  Additionally, I have two (2) of our adult children living in our house as this provides the safest environment for them.  I tell you all of this not for any other reason but to let all of you know that I too understand and appreciate the sacrifices and adjustments all of you are making during these unprecedented times.  So please know that my heart and gratitude goes out to each of you. 

    As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters together, we as a leadership team are working everyday to try to ascertain direction and answers to many of the questions that you may have. At this particular time, I offer the following regarding where we may be headed as we continue toward the start of the next school year:

    • We will ensure that student and staff grouping are as static as possible to limit as much movement as possible.
    • We will make use of face coverings as per appropriate guidelines by the Department of Health and/or CDC.
    • We may be postponing field trips and other various events depending upon the “host site” and any restrictions that may apply.
    • We will follow all PIAA rules and guidance for athletic events.
    • We will be restricting nonessential visitors, volunteers and activities within all of our buildings.
    • We may be limiting the total number of students allowed in any one classroom or space depending upon guidance that is constantly emerging and changing.
    • We may be forced to close communal use spaces such as cafeterias and playgrounds once again depending upon guidance from the Department of Health and/or CDC.
    • We may be forced to serve food in classrooms.
    • We may need to stagger arrival times and dismissal times at our various buildings depending upon transportation needs.
    • We may need to keep children’s belongings in separate containers to prevent any potential cross contamination.
    • We will be asking for any of the student belongings to be taken home each day for cleaning.
    • We will restrict the “sharing” of devices and materials associated with school work.
    • We may be conducting daily health screenings to include temperature, and/or symptom checks for staff and students.

    As we continue to visualize what the return to school looks like, please know that my first choice is to be able to open without restriction or with minimal restrictions.  I know however that we, as a leadership team, must be prepared to have alternate plans and we are working on several different models.  Once we have focused on one or more options, I will be more than happy to provide that information accordingly.  I think it is just a little premature at this time to release that information as I am concerned that the rules to which we are being asked to play by this week, may change next week so I ask for your continued patience and support.  

    I completely understand how stressful and difficult these past few months have been and I cannot tell you how much your support and efforts have meant to all of us on the leadership team.  Staff members have had to face new ways to instruct, families have needed to support each other during difficult, trying times and our students have missed out on many very important milestone activities while making the best of an uncontrollable situation.  Please know that I will continue to share our plans going forward at the appropriate time, so that I can do my best to allay any fears or trepidation that you or your children may be having.  

    In closing, I want to thank all of the parents/guardians, staff members and students for your resolve and support while we make the best of these “interesting” times and please know that our #VikingNation will come back stronger and better than ever! 

    Be well,
    Dr. Toleno