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Middletown Area School District nearing final ‘re-entry plan’; iPads might play big role


A “re-entry plan” for how students in Middletown Area School District are to be educated this fall with continuing concerns over the coronavirus is due to the school board for review and approval before the end of July, district Superintendent Lori Suski tells the Press & Journal.

Suski expects the plan to be before the board for consideration during a special board meeting to be held during the week of July 20, Suski said in an email.

She said the district finished surveying parents for input into the plan June 22, and a survey to district staff went out last week.

Suski said she has also been meeting with a parent advisory group, a teacher/staff advisory group, and her team of administrators “to seek their input on the many decisions that need to be made.”

“We are also consulting with our district physician” from the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and with the district solicitor, “to ensure that we are taking all reasonable precautions to keep students and staff safe” when classes resume for the 2020-21 school year, Suski said. “We are also in the midst of writing the grant applications for the (federal) CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid. Relief and Economic Security) and other funding that is being provided to school districts to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other necessary equipment to assist with COVID-19.”

Those grant applications were all due by Tuesday, June 30, according to Suski.

Separately, the school board acted at its June 1 meeting to provide for enough iPads to serve district students in 2020-21, if needed.

The board approved purchasing 700 iPads to replace those at the elementary level. The district plans to use grant money available through the CARES Act, district Chief Financial Officer David Franklin told the Press & Journal.

In a normal year, this would provide for 8 iPads in each elementary classroom, Franklin said. 

The 700 iPads are not enough to provide a device for every elementary student if all instruction needs to be provided on a remote learning basis, Franklin said. The board June 1 also approved for the district to rent an additional 500 iPads, if necessary.

This would acquire enough iPads for all elementary students. 

“The rental of the devices is not something the district plans to do on an ongoing basis and (the district) is hoping that the rental will not occur for 2020-21 unless we feel certain that the devices will be needed as part of our re-entry plan in the fall,” Franklin said.

As the rentals are not viewed as a recurring cost, the district will use money from its fund balance reserve to pay for these iPads so as not to impact the 2020-21 budget, Franklin added. 

Classes in Middletown Area School District and all school districts throughout Pennsylvania were ordered shut down by Gov. Tom Wolf for 10 business days starting on March 16 because of the coronavirus.

On April 9, Wolf expanded that closure to shut down schools in Middletown and everywhere else in Pennsylvania through the remainder of the academic year.