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August 10, 2020

Staffing shortage prompts Central Bucks School District to start year all-online

Superintendent says employees 'are struggling with countless issues'

Education Schools
Central Bucks COVID Street View/Google

Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown and the rest of the K-12 schools in the district will begin the 2020 academic year entirely online, officials said in a letter to family and staff.

The first term of the 2020 academic year will be all digital for students in Central Bucks School District, because of insufficient staff to conduct in-person classes, the district's superintendent said Monday.

Central Bucks School District, which has more than 18,000 students, originally planned to offer some in-class instruction, but Superintendent John Kopicki informed families of the major change after evaluating community responses to an enrollment form sent out last month.

The majority of elementary and secondary school families shared their preference for either an in-person or hybrid option. Among those groups, 26% of elementary school families and 19% of secondary school families, preferred an all-online model.

But a review of staff responses led the district to delay any in-person instruction until at least the end of the first term on Nov. 11.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people struggling to find a balance between safely returning to work while maintaining personal health and well-being," Kopicki said. "Our faculty and staff are no different than our community in that many of our employees are struggling with countless issues and individual circumstances that prevent them from returning to our schools in person. Once this information was provided to us, we re-examined our proposed school reopening plan and explored each option, navigating possible solutions."

The decision ultimately reached was to start the school year all-online for all K-12 students on Sept. 8.

"While we start school remotely, the administration will continue to work on solutions to bring our students back into their schools under the selected choice parents chose," Kopicki said. "Our goal is and has been to reopen our schools and operate in a safe environment while providing the best education for our students."

The district will now turn its attention to ensuring that the virtual learning programming meets the needs of all students. Later this month, families will receive further correspondence on the distribution of devices and other materials that students will need to start the school year.

Last month, the School District of Philadelphia backed away from a hybrid learning model in favor of starting the year online until at least the completion of the first term. The city, district and Comcast are in the process of expanding free internet service to an estimated 35,000 households in order to support the virtual education plan.

"I empathize with the disruption this news will cause many of our families," Kopicki said. "The challenges we are facing as a school community have never been more dire, and I ask for your continued patience and understanding now and through the start of the school year."