Exploring the impact of COVID on school schedules in Cumberland County


Jay Barker

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Time on campus has been a limited experience this year. How are other local districts handling their scheduling amidst the Covid pandemic?

Over a year ago, the world fell apart due to a global pandemic and schools were struggling to find what would work best for their students and staff to continue the learning process while still remaining safe. Today, schools still struggle to find the best solution to the constantly changing conditions of the virus. Even within Cumberland County, most school districts have a different plan to achieve this goal. 

Currently, CASD (Carlisle) is participating in a hybrid plan where students are split into two groups: the A group and the B group. Students in the A group attend school on Monday and Tuesday while students in the B group attend school on Thursday and Friday. On the days that students are not learning in school, they participate in remote learning. 

However, things are starting to change as March 15 marked the first day of increased schooling for K-2 students. Students in grades 3-5 are also going to switch to this learning plan on April 12. This increased schooling means that students in these grade levels could attend in-person schooling on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, with Wednesdays taking place online. However, this new plan does decrease social distancing in both the school buildings as well as during transportation because of the increased amount of students that would be attending school face-to-face. Fortunately, the CDC released new guidelines that allowed schools to decrease social distancing down to three feet from six feet for school.

Cumberland Valley School District and Mechanicsburg Area School District are both participating in a learning plan identical to Carlisle’s. This makes sense for Cumberland Valley as they have had 170 COVID-19 cases throughout the school year so far, as of March 18, and Carlisle has had 197 cases as of March 25, meaning they are in the same range as each other when it comes to their COVID cases. Mechanicsburg does not specify how many cases they have had during the school year, but as of March 18, they had three active cases with 27 possible exposures. 

Cumberland Valley School District is planning to switch to a learning plan where students learn face-to-face four days a week starting April 12. In this plan, students would attend in-person school on Monday and Tuesday as well as Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays would be reserved for at-home learning. A key reason behind this switch is the increased vaccination within the county since many people within the 1A phase of the vaccination process, which includes the majority of the vulnerable population, should receive their first vaccination by the end of the month. Cumberland Valley is also planning to return to in-person school five days a week by the start of next school year. 

Big Spring School District and South Middleton School District are both participating in a similar learning plan. Their students are split up into an A group and a B group as well, except the A group goes Monday and Wednesday while the B group goes Tuesday and Thursday. Instead of everybody being remote on Wednesdays, they are remote on Fridays. Elementary-level kids in South Middleton School District are attending school five days a week, while Big Spring School District is only looking into that option for elementary students. South Middleton has had 25 cases throughout the school year with two of them being in March, which is very little compared to other school districts, so it makes sense that elementary kids are already back full time (the district is also notably smaller than the larger districts of CV and CASD)

As of March 23, Camp Hill School District has one active case with 47 active cases so far this school year. They are open at level two, which allows in-person learning for blended learners to take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are occupied with online assignments. However, there is also an option at this level for students to learn remotely if they do not want to go into school at all. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for them would consist of independent assignments online; Tuesdays and Thursdays for them contain live or recorded instruction material from teachers. Camp Hill announced on March 26 that they will be returning to 5-day in-person instruction for all grades (K-12) and will offer 5-day remote instruction for those who do not want to attend in-person instruction. 

As of March 1st, East Pennsboro switched from a Tier 1 model, which includes a fully remote learning plan, to a Tier 2 model, which includes students being split into 3 groups: A, B, and C. All students attend school Monday through Thursday, while only group C students, made up of students with special needs, attend school on Friday with the remaining students learning through a remote setting. As of March 18, East Pennsboro counts 6 active cases with 52 quarantines/exposures. The quarantines and exposures stem from information that those people were exposed to COVID-19, so they are quarantining as a precautionary measure.

After reviewing other school districts’ current positions when it comes to the amount of COVID cases and their learning plan, Carlisle seems to be in a similar state of planning as them, though by the numbers it does appear that Carlisle has been impacted more by COVID cases compared to other districts. Fortunately, it does appear that COVID has become manageable enough to allow elementary-level students to reopen. If nothing else, seeing schools being so eager to reopen and having plans put in place to accomplish that gives us some hope that this pandemic is wrapping up.