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School Districts Struggle To Create Definitive Reopening Plans As Local, State Guidance Constantly Changes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- With some much up in the air right now, one thing is for sure: back to school will look very different in 2020.

Parents are spending time filling out district surveys, instead of shopping for the usual notebooks and book bags.

If you're a parent of school-aged children, rest assured, you're not the only one feeling confused. The problem is that school districts need to look ahead to the new few months, but local and state health departments are taking things day by day.

A local mother, Kelly Hessert, said what a lot of parents are thinking.

"I honestly don't even know where we're at with this -- to be honest. Like I have no idea what they want to do," Hessert said.

As a mother of a 12 year old and a 9 year old, she keeps checking Facebook, the new spot for parents to talk about back to school confusion.

"There's so many things to think about," she said. "Am I selfish for wanting to send my kids to school and then worry about them being exposed?"

Her district, Chartiers Valley, sent out a survey, and the results showed parents' top concern is "students falling behind academically." The survey says 68.7% of parents want class to resume with safety precautions, 23.7% want a hybrid and 7.6% favor virtual learning.

"They need that classroom setting. Like that last 9 weeks last year was awful," Hessert said.

Chartiers Valley falls in Representative Dan Miller's District. He serves on the state's Education Committee.

"As far as my recollection we've only had one hearing in about the 4.5 months that this has gone on," Miller said.

Meaning the tidal wave of new issues like daily student temperature checks and desk sharing to the flow in the hallways, aren't yet resolved in Harrisburg.

"In my opinion, yes we have struggled in Harrisburg to provide any sort of guidance from the legislature because in reality we just haven't been talking about those issues at all. We're not having hearings on them," Miller said.

According to Miller, there are hearings scheduled for August 4 and 5, and there is guidance that has come down from the state health department. For example, students and bus drivers will have to wear masks as well as complete health screenings and temperature checks before they even arrive at the bus stops. All districts have to submit a health and safety plan before reopening.

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