MIFFLINBURG — Pieces still need to be put in place before the Mifflinburg Area School District will know how school will be conducted in the upcoming academic year.
Superintendent Dan Lichtel said the district was “eagerly awaiting” guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Eduction. Lichtel said contact with the PDE was frequent and something in the month of June was anticipated.
Even so, there would be variables in the months ahead regardless of whether Union County is in red, yellow or green phase with the coronavirus.
“We are obviously planning for the best, but preparing for whatever may come,” Lichtel said. “One of our hurdles at this point is that we are still bound by the conditions in the School Code which require us to have 180 days of instructions and full attendance for students.”
Those requirements, including hours of instruction, assumes the district will be able to open in the traditional sense.
“Most experts will tell you that is not real likely,” Lichtel said. “We’re probably going to have to open with some conditions, whether they are space limitations, size of student body limitations (or) number of people allowed in a room.”
Lichtel said alternatives to the traditional model were likely with plenty of “what ifs” pending.
“This spring we obviously had to work on our distance learning capabilities,” Lichtel said. “We do have students who can learn digitally, and that’s been helpful. But I think everyone will agree that we would prefer face to face classes.
“The more you can interact between teachers the more learning can take place and the more it can be genuine.”
Lichtel noted success in developing digital tools this spring as teacher groups have been gathering data on what seem to be working well. Still, there are portions of the community which does not have the digital infrastructure.
“Even if we handed out devices to students,” Lichtel said. “I can’t tell you that every student has ready access to a strong wi-fi signal. We still have students who are learning through paper packets.”
Lichtel remarked there was a large amount of paper generated in the spring, a practice likely to cntinue in the fall.
“I’m really proud of our entire staff,” he concluded. “I think everybody has really been working tremendously to do what we can to reach students whether it is digitally, or by telephone calls (and) delivering paper packets to families.”
Though helpful, Lichtel said Zoom or other platforms used for classes are somewhat isolating.