Area school districts, including Forest Hills, Conemaugh Valley and Greater Johnstown, are implementing more in-person learning as the first month of classes nears its end.

Forest Hills had extended its hybrid model of education by two weeks Sept. 11 after reviewing local and state COVID-19 data.

Administrators have again reexamined the situation and decided a five-day per week schedule can be implemented safely beginning Monday.

“We’re excited,” Superintendent David Lehman said. “We know we’re best when we have our students in front of us ... but you know, we’re cautious.”

In addition to the new schedule, students will be dismissed an hour-and-a-half early on Wednesdays to allow for more cleaning by maintenance staff.

Lehman said parent survey results show the majority who responded are in favor of this new schedule and the early dismissal for cleaning.

To add an extra layer of security to the return, Forest Hills has purchased larger capacity temperature scanners and will be checking the students when they arrive in the morning and before they go to lunch.

Conemaugh Valley is also increasing face-to-face instruction after operating under a hybrid schedule since Aug. 31, according to a release from the district.

Students in pre-K and kindergarten will begin attending face-to-face classes four days per week starting Monday.

The other grades will be phased in during the first weeks of October.

“Based on all of the feedback that we have received, it has become clear that it’s time to bring students back,” Superintendent Shane Hazenstab said. 

“Many parents and students are ready to get back into school as much as possible. We feel very good about our COVID preventative measures including masks and distancing, and it’s time to increase our in-person instruction.”

Students in first through third and seventh through ninth grades will begin attending Monday through Thursday starting Oct. 5, while those in fourth through sixth and 10th through 12th grades will follow suit beginning Oct. 13.

Fridays will remain virtual for everyone until at least Nov. 13, at which time school officials will reevaluate the situation and make a decision about how to proceed.

Greater Johnstown students will start attending more in-person classes beginning Oct. 5 as well.

“We’re starting Oct. 5 because we believe it will give families enough time to plan with their work schedules and family schedules,” Superintendent Amy Arcurio said.

She added that the school board, administration and Greater Johnstown Education Association are all “very comfortable” with the move to increased face-to-face instruction.

Since Sept. 8, the students at Greater Johnstown have been learning on a hybrid schedule that allowed for in-person learning one or two days per week.

The new schedule will increase the days of face-to-face instruction for kindergarten through fourth grade learners to Monday through Thursday.

Students in fifth through 12th grades will begin a two-day per week schedule.

Anyone with the last name beginning “A-L” will attend in person Mondays and Tuesdays, along with the Pennsylvania Highlands Community College associate degree group “A-B,” and those with “M-Z” and Penn Highlands group “C-D” will go Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Everyone will continue to learn remotely Fridays to allow maintenance staff to deep clean the buildings and teachers to continue office hours for assistance with remote education.

Additionally, special needs students with an IEP will be able to attend face-to-face Monday through Thursday.

Special education managers are reaching out to parents to discuss this option.

Administrators will continue to monitor the state COVID-19 dashboard and local data as the school year continues to determine if more in-person classes can occur, Arcurio said. 

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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