Hazleton Area school superintendent describes virtual learning plan

Students and parents in the Hazleton Area can prepare to study from home during the first 45 days of the new school year, Superintendent Brian Uplinger said in a video.

When classes resume Sept. 8, Uplinger said everyone will learn from home at first because of safety hazards posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every two weeks, district officials will review prevalence of the disease and re-evaluate whether any grades can resume classes in schools.

Uplinger said he wants everyone to return to their classrooms because they learn better in person than online.

“That’s my opinion so that’s our biggest goal, our overreaching goal; but again we need to do it safely,” he said.

Uplinger’s 25-minute video is posted on the pandemic section of district’s webpage along with plans, in English and Spanish, for returning to school and following health and safety procedures.

In the video, Uplinger contrasted education that students will receive online this year with lessons that they took in spring after the pandemic forced schools to close March 16.

“This is not the same as the spring. This is 150 times better than it was,” he said.

Students will use Microsoft Teams software that is more secure than programs used in spring and compatible with most computers, tablets and smartphones. Each student will have a password and email assigned by the district.

Videos on the district’s Facebook page, HASD Announcements, shows parents and students how to log onto and use Microsoft Teams.

Hazleton Area teachers will teach lessons that students watch in real time and that follow the district’s curriculum.

Students who miss a class can make up work by reviewing lessons stored online.

Teachers will take attendance throughout the 180-day academic year and students have to meet requirements for passing courses and graduating.

Counselors and psychologists will remain available online.

Hazleton Area will continue to teach English as a second language and offer services for students with individual and gifted education plans.

“Nothing is going to be missed. It’s going to look different,” Uplinger said.

Sports teams, clubs, band and chorus will continue “until we’re told we can’t,” he said.

Not every family has an electronic device on which their children can study online so they will learn at home with papers and books.

“There may be a time they need to meet with a teacher somewhere on campus. We’ll make accommodations,” said Uplinger, adding no plan will meet the needs of all families.

He also wants to provide computers to children who lack them, but not all machines that the district purchased have arrived.

“They’re on backorder. Everybody in the country, everybody in the world is looking for those devices. Please be patient with us,” he said.

While Hazleton Area students study from home, the district plans to offer them ways to pick up breakfasts and lunches as they did during spring and summer, Uplinger said.

Currently, the food giveaways have stopped until state or federal authorities release details for the next feeding program.

When students can return to classes in person, Uplinger outlined procedures that they will follow.

“It’s going to be a little more regimented than it has been in the past,” he said while elaborating on plans for wearing masks, moving within rooms and riding buses.

“We’re all in this together, and we will get through this,” Uplinger said, “but the only way we’re going to do that is together.”

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