Neshaminy School District / September, 2020
IMPORTANT NOTE: Information in this newsletter is current as of Friday, September 25, 2020.
Please check the District website or school emails for updates.
"A School Year Like No Other" begins
For the first time since March, Neshaminy welcomed students back into the classroom during the month of September for orientation. After a summer of planning and extensive preparations across the District, the students returned to new routines, procedures, and even furniture arrangements designed to keep both them and the staff as healthy and safe as possible.
Planning for the new school year started not long after the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly ended in-person instruction last spring. The District was in a good position to transition to virtual learning thanks to progress previously made in the implementation of the 1:1 Technology program over the past several years. While several grades already had take-home devices in place, the Information Technology Department quickly gathered devices used in school and arranged distribution for students in the other grades. Over the summer, that effort expanded greatly to provide over 3,500 additional devices (Chromebooks for grades 2-12 and iPads for grades K-1) so each child would have their own device. Teachers also received new laptop computers.
After surveying parents, the District administration formulated a plan to start the school year virtual, and gradually return to in-person instruction if conditions allow. Starting with orientations in September, the plan calls for a hybrid schedule to begin October 5, and full in-person instruction starting in November. The Neshaminy School Board will consider the implementation of each phase at their Board Public Meeting at the end of each month, taking into account the pandemic conditions at the time and the recommendations of government and health officials. Families have also been offered the opportunity to keep their students all-virtual, if they choose, with the option to return to their regular classes at a later date.
Over the summer, extensive preparations were made in every department for the eventual return of in-person classes. Thousands of desks, cabinets, chairs, and other furniture were moved from every classroom to provide space for social distancing. Hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer and dispensers were ordered and placed throughout every building. Floors and walls were labeled with directional stickers and reminders to social distance. Dozens of plastic panels were added to desks and counters in common areas such as nurses offices, counseling centers and main offices to protect both the staff and students. Lunch procedures (and locations) changed. Schedules were modified. Support staff was trained on Covid-19 procedures. School buses were re-routed. Every single aspect of a school day had to be re-imagined.
Meanwhile, teachers prepared for both online and in-person classes. They spent weeks training to use a variety of new educational applications, learning best practices for videos, Canvas and Zoom, and preparing their classrooms and daily lesson plans. Specialized educational plans were reviewed by teachers, counselors and administrators, and modified to meet the needs of every student.
Nobody can say for sure what the rest of the school year will look like, or exactly how the Covid-19 pandemic will play out. The "new normal" at Neshaminy is a high level of flexibility, preparation for multiple scenarios, and a good measure of patience.
Re-opening information resources
- Neshaminy District Re-Opening Website
- Dr. McGee's Email Communications
- VIDEO: Ask a Nurse (re-opening health & safety questions)
- VIDEO: Overview of elementary, middle schools, school bus safety procedures
- VIDEO: Overview of Neshaminy HS procedures
- Technology device distribution requests, repairs
- Frequently Asked Questions / Ask Trish
- Neshaminy HS SAT / ACT testing information
- "Ask Trish" reopening question hotline: 215-809-7777
- Neshaminy Canvas Help Line: 215-809-6390
Got questions? "Ask Trish" has the answers!
Starting the school year in the middle of a global pandemic is a complicated matter, and as the plans to reopen schools were shared, Neshaminy families had many questions. Some were specific to their own situation ("How do we get a parking pass for my NHS junior?") while others were more general ("Will lunch be served on orientation days?").
Fortunately, Neshaminy has just the right person to answer these questions. Patricia Murray, an administrative assistant at Neshaminy High School, was temporarily re-assigned to answer a hotline for District families to get information about re-opening. The "Ask Trish" hotline opened in mid-August, and since then has responded to nearly 1,000 phone calls and emails. Every weekday, she listens to dozens of recorded questions, and returns every call with an answer. If she doesn't know an answer, she does the research and finds out.
Many questions surround details of the options available to students (hybrid, virtual and Virtual Academy). Parents of students new to their buildings (kindergarten, 5th and 9th grade) also have many questions about their new routines. Answers to some of the most common questions were shared on a FAQ page on the District website.
Mrs. Murray came to this task with a great deal of knowledge since she is also a District parent with three children that graduated Neshaminy HS (Class of 2014, 2016 and 2018) and a current sophomore at NHS. She has worked at the high school for four years, and has a background in customer service as well experience in education, serving as the Athletic Director and a member of the Finance Council for her local parish for many years.
"You never know what is going on in other's lives," she said. "I like getting to know them. If I can help calm and reassure them, it's a good day."
School Board Update
The next scheduled Board meeting is Wednesday, September 30, at 7 pm in the auditorium at Maple Point Middle School. The meeting will also be livecast on the District website at www.neshaminy.org/meetings. Among the items for consideration at the upcoming meeting:
- Continuation of the Neshaminy re-opening plan with a hybrid red/blue schedule for the month of October (2 days in-person, 2 days asynchronous virtual and one day synchronous virtual)
- Approval of bids
At the September 8 meeting, the Board approved a number of appointments, including Timothy Hunt as Acting Principal at Poquessing Middle School while Principal Joann Holland is out on temporary leave. The Board also approved a contract with Neshaminy Kids Club to lease five additional classrooms at the TLC building (at the Neshaminy HS property) to expand their programs for the 2020-2021 school year.
The Board gave final approval to a project to install an air purification system in all Neshaminy schools (see the article below) with Reynolds Energy Services. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
Free meal program extended, includes school lunches
The Neshaminy free meal distribution program has been extended through the end of December. Any family with children under the age of 18 can pick up meals two days a week (Monday and Wednesday) between 11am - 1pm. Meals distributed on those days will cover five weekdays.
When students return to in-person learning, their school lunches will also be served free of charge through at least December 31, 2020, thanks to the extension of a funding program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While students can still choose between bringing their own lunch and a school lunch, families will not need to worry about adding funds to the school lunch account through School Cafe or exchanging money in person.
HVAC add-on will help clear the air
Neshaminy School Board members approved the installation of a new add-on to the District's HVAC systems in each school that promises to reduce the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses in the air including (but not limited to) COVID-19.
The system works through the process of "Bi-Polar Ionization." Air flows through a unit installed in the duct work that energizes the air to produce positive and negative (bipolar) ions. This process reduces dust, mold and odors; breaks down volatile organic compounds; and kills bacteria and viruses.
The system will be installed in all school buildings (except Tawanka Elementary) as an amendment to the District's Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) program. This means the approximately $1.8 million cost will be covered by adding it to the GESA energy-saving projects completed throughout the District over the past five years, and mitigated by the savings in future energy costs for those projects to the District. Tawanka Elementary School was not covered by the GESA program since it is a new construction, so the Board approved an audit to get an estimate on installing the system in that building as well.
The installation of the equipment from AtmosAir Solutions will be managed by Reynolds Energy Services. Company representative Damion Spahr said the work can be completed after school and overnight with little or no disruption to classes or other school activities.
Join us and help Build Futures!
Neshaminy School District is looking to fill a number of positions for the 2020-2021 school year including cafeteria and playground aides, food service workers, long-term substitutes and more. Visit our employment website for more information and online application links. Additional opportunities for substitute teachers, instructional assistants, paraprofessionals and more can be found at the ESS website here.
Back-to-School photo gallery posted
Bitmoji classrooms add fun, personality to online learning
With the start of the new school year, Neshaminy students are starting their classes online. The current plan calls for a hybrid combination of online and in-person learning to begin in October, and possibly additional in-person time after that if health and safety conditions allow.
Preparing for these possibilities, Neshaminy teachers have put a lot of creative energy into making their classrooms welcoming spaces that are not only well-organized, but also fun. And this year, it was important to do the same thing for their learning spaces online.
The way they accomplish this is by using Bitmojis, which are cartoon versions of themselves created with a popular mobile app. They place their Bitmojis in a cartoon classroom created in Google Slides. These classrooms contain images of everything you might find in a traditional classroom — books, whiteboards, assignment sheets, posters — even decorations such as office plants and sports team logos. Each of these items can be assigned a web link, allowing student to use the Bitmoji classroom as a navigation center. By clicking on the various items in the room, students can easily find class assignments, announcements, videos, schedules, connect with Canvas (the District’s online curriculum management system), or easily connect with online books and educational tools.
Bitmoji classrooms are not limited to teachers — school counselors and even some administrators have created their own Bitmoji classrooms making it easier (and more fun!) to find the resources they need. The slides can be updated at any time to keep them current with the curriculum and season. The video below explains how Bitmoji classrooms work.
Constitution Day speakers visit Maple Point online
Each year, the students of Maple Point Middle School in Middletown Township are treated to a lesson about the United Constitution from those who actually work and use it every day. The school invites a series of speakers to share knowledge of specific aspects of the Constitution, so by the time a student has graduated 8th grade they gain an understanding of the basis for the judicial and electoral process, the role of elected officials and government, and the exercise of freedom of speech and the press.
This year, a slate of local speakers joined hundreds of students in a series of Zoom presentations. The students heard from the speakers then were able to ask questions. The speakers this year included:
- Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub
- Middletown Township Police Chief Joe Bartorilla and School Resource Officer Melissa Robison
- LevittownNow editor Tom Sofield
- U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick
- Middletown Township Supervisor Amy Strouse
- Pennsylvania Representative Frank Farry
The program is arranged by the Maple Point social studies teachers including 8th grade teacher Anne Schmidt. Constitution Day was celebrated on September 17 this year and the Maple Point celebration is centered around that week.
Music teachers deliver a curbside tune-up
A lot of services are delivered curbside these days - and for us that includes drive-up string instrument tuning! The Neshaminy music teachers have been helping their students hit the right notes for their individual lessons on Zoom by offering drive-by tunings outside their schools.
In this photo, Instrumental Music Teacher Helen Kirsch works on a violin outside Pearl S. Buck Elementary School. Music students can schedule a tuning at any of the District schools.
Middletown adds a new School Resource Officer
Choir mini-camp adapts to social distancing
For the past 10 years, members of the Poquessing Middle School Select Choir have gathered before the start of school for a "choir camp" to get to know each other and begin learning their songs. This year the camp had to move outside, and despite social distancing rules, summer heat, and sound competition from noisy air conditioners and passing airplanes, the students are enjoying the experience, even if they can't always hear each other singing.
NHS School Store offers online shopping
Until the District is open for in-person classes, the School Store at Neshaminy High School will have periodic online school store events for the purchasing of Neshaminy wear. The first online store in now open until September 29 with items for students and alumni. You have the option of shipping your order to your home, or arrange pick-up at the main office. In November, another online store with different clothing items will be open. To select and order please visit:
Neshaminy Update is published monthly during the school year and distributed to the Neshaminy community via email and web. To submit comments, suggestions or news items for consideration, please email Chris Stanley, Community Relations Coordinator.
Neshaminy School Board of Directors
Stephen Pirritano - President
John Allen - Vice President
Irene M. Boyle
Adam J. Kovitz
Neshaminy School District
Dr. Rob McGee, Superintendent
2001 Old Lincoln Highway
Langhorne, PA 19047