In this image from online video, the School District of Lancaster board discusses the resumption of in-person education during a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.
In this image from online video, the School District of Lancaster board discusses the resumption of in-person education during a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

The School District of Lancaster will return to on-site instruction beginning Jan. 25.

Under the district's arrangements, students will have three options: On-site instruction, virtual participation in on-site classes via Zoom; or cyber learning via Cyber Pathways Academy, the district's online school.

The district has been surveying parents to see which options they wish to select for their children.

SDL reopening plan

At its meeting Tuesday night, SDL's board voted separately on resuming on-site learning for elementary, middle and high school grades. Board member David Parry was the sole "no" vote on the high school component; the other two votes were unanimous, 9-0.

In a summary of the reopening posted on the district website, SDL says high school students "will return over three weeks in a hybrid schedule," while pre-kindergarten will have five half-days per week.

"Students in grades Pre-K through 8, and high school freshman and seniors will be offered onsite instruction starting Jan. 25. High school sophomores and juniors will have the option to return Feb. 8," the district said.

To maintain social distancing requirements, classroom capacity will be much lower than normal. The district may have to set up hybrid-learning cohorts for classes that would otherwise be over capacity, so "it's important that families let their child's school know which instructional model they are choosing," district spokesman Adam Aurand said.

In November, reacting to the worsening coronavirus pandemic, the SDL board had voted to shift to fully remote instruction. Its decision overruled the recommendation of district Superintendent Damaris Rau, who had pushed to keep at least some in-person instruction in the schedule.

Students, especially young and at-risk students, deserve to be in classrooms, where they learn most effectively, she said.

Lancaster County, like all of Pennsylvania, is seeing substantial transmission of the virus, with an incidence rate of 388.8 cases per 100,000 residents last week, according to the state's Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard.

The state Department of Education recommends fully remote learning in areas with substantial transmission, although it modified that recommendation last week to call for blended instruction for elementary school students.

The department's guidance is advisory, and districts have the final say. Apart from SDL, districts in Lancaster County by and large have chosen to stick with in-person instruction, occasionally closing schools temporarily due to coronavirus cases or as a precaution around the holidays.

Tim Stuhldreher