Message from the Superintendent
It is my pleasure to present the June edition of the Lower Moreland Township School District Superintendent’s Newsletter. I hope this letter finds you and your family healthy and well. The COVID-19 crisis has affected our community in ways we never could have anticipated and disrupted our lives for much longer than we ever could have imagined. However, we are also a resilient and determined community. I’m proud of how our students, teachers and families have responded in the wake of a pandemic and allowed the continuum of learning to happen in the safest way under the circumstances. As the school year winds down, I would like to sincerely thank all stakeholders for your support in our Continuity of Education Plan. Understandably, this was not an easy transition for students, teachers and families; however, the flexibility and resolve shown by all is to be commended.
Congratulations go out to our rising 6th and 9th graders as they complete their academic careers at both Pine Road and Murray Avenue and end the 2019-2020 school year next week with their respective virtual celebrations. The last three months for our graduating Class of 2020 has not been what the district had planned, nor what anyone could have ever imagined. As impactful and universal that this pandemic has been, the seniors have maintained a passion for their generation and we are all eager to see how each of them will make an impact on this world in the coming years. The Class of 2020 will always be remembered for its sacrifice and selflessness. We look forward to their graduation celebration on June 10.
In May, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera spoke at a State Education Hearing where he articulated that as officials prepare to open for the 2020-2021 school year, local health departments and the PA Department of Education will examine data to ensure the safety of students. Additionally, most recently Governor Wolf shared that “he expects schools to reopen across Pennsylvania in the fall.” To date, no specific guidance has been communicated to PA school districts as to what the required safety and health structures will be in order for “in-person” learning to take place in 2020-21, nor what flexible learning models will be allowable under PA School Code for the required number of instructional days/hours that all PA schools are required to meet. However, there is currently no shortage of information emerging across the country about what school may “look like” in the fall. LMTSD administration is analyzing the pros and cons of a variety of scenarios to employ as we possibly reopen our schools in the fall. While everyone hopes that we can return to normal operations sooner than later, it is prudent to plan for a variety of scenarios to ensure that we can handle any situation we face when it is time for our students and staff to return to school. We look forward to engaging our school community with scenario examples once planning details become clearer.
As we look forward to the 2020-2021 school year, LMTSD is planning for multiple scenarios and/or combinations of scenarios that include, but are not limited to the following:
Regular schedule that allows all K-12 students to return to school every day, follow a typical day schedule; social distancing, face coverings and limited movement throughout the buildings would be enforced.
Every other day rotation that allows 50% of K-12 students to attend school every other day (full day), follow a typical schedule; social distancing, face coverings and limited movement throughout the buildings would be enforced. Opposite day at home would include asynchronous LM Learns! online learning.
AM/PM rotation that allows 50% of K-12 students to attend school every day either AM or PM following a truncated daily schedule; social distancing, face coverings and limited movement throughout the buildings would be enforced. Second half of the day would include asynchronous LM Learns! online learning from home.
LM Learns! virtual learning. Fully online learning model that would include mostly synchronous “live” teaching in which students would follow a daily schedule from home.
Although there continues to be more questions than answers about reopening in 2020-21, we have examined each part of the school day and begun drafting procedures for ensuring the well-being of our students and staff no matter the scenario being incorporated. Obvious components beyond the scope of the teaching and learning environments in our buildings that will need to be addressed in order to meet social distancing and safety guidelines include, but are not limited to the following: bus transportation, lunch service, recess, temperature checks, wellness assessments, hallway movement, daily student belongings, visitors to buildings, events, extra-curriculars, and cleaning/sanitization.
In the event schools are not allowed to reopen this fall or if schools are once again forced to close after opening, and we are required to continue educating K-12 students virtually, our Continuity of Education Plan, LM Learns!, will go through a series of revisions to ensure that it supports our students and teachers. These revisions will include more “live” synchronous teaching and learning in order to more closely replicate learning experiences found in our “in-person” classrooms.
As we move through the summer months and continue collaborating with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, we will continue to share plans as they become clearer. The recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also serve as guidance for schools. It is important to remember that our planning is proactive; therefore, please know that no final decisions have been made about possible District reopening plans. District planning will be directly dependent upon the conditions set forth by COVID-19 and the continued guidance of the PA Departments of Health and Education.
Lastly, the events that have unfolded this past week throughout our country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, have demonstrated our district’s continued need to have a set of shared core beliefs along with a mission and vision in order to carry them out. In partnership with various stakeholders that included: students, staff, families, and LM community members, the Lower Moreland Township School District first established these very important elements last year as part of its five-year strategic plan. I encourage everyone to revisit these important elements as we continue to support our students and community during difficult times related to civil unrest and multiple issues related to the pandemic.
Have a safe and enjoyable summer!
Scott Davidheiser, Ed.D.
Personalized lawn signs were delivered to the home of each graduating senior.
Members of the Class of 2020 had the chance to take a photo by the LMHS sign as it displayed their names.
On May 22, the HS teachers and administrators held a car parade that drove by the home of each graduating senior.
Business Office (Mark McGuinn, Business Manager)
As the School District is looking to finish up this extremely unique school year, there have been a few questions as it relates to how the District was finishing the school year financially. While in any given school year, over 92% of costs are fixed or mandated, 2019/20 proved unique in light of the COVID-19 situation.
As per Act 13, the Pennsylvania Legislature mandated that all employees of any school district (folks who receive a W-2) would be paid the same as if the COVID-19 situation never occurred. With that provision of Act 13, all salaries and benefits had to be paid until the end of the school year. This accounts for almost 69% of our total budget. The District had to provide a Continuity of Education Plan (COE plan) to the Department of Education in order to provide virtual education for all students in the school district. The Act also provided for costs for charter schools (both brick and mortar and cyber charters) to continue to be paid as well as for private school tuition costs for out of district special education students to be paid. As part of the COE plan, the District needed to maintain services for special education students such as occupation, physical, and speech therapy services albeit in a virtual environment. These services need to be maintained to meet FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education) needs and for the District to be in compliance with students' IEP (Individual Education Plan) plan. So, the Special Education Tuition/Therapy costs needed to be continued to be paid. Our Debt Service line item and Vocational Education needed to be paid as vocational education was mandated to be paid by Act 13 and debt service on outstanding bond issues needed to be paid. Act 13 had a provision that districts were able to re-negotiate their transportation contracts as long as drivers continued to be paid. The District negotiated a rate down to 80% of the monthly costs scheduled to be paid for April, May, and June. The Act indicated that if drivers were not paid, the 2020/21 transportation subsidy received from the State would not be funded in total. Additionally, the federal CARES Act funds that Districts could receive would be in jeopardy. Note that the District is scheduled to receive approximately $75,000 of the almost $503 million that State of PA received from the federal government. The District also negotiated the cleaning contract and grounds contract to be on an as-needed basis for the final 3.5 months of the school year so there was savings in those line items.
Noted above reflects the expenditure side of the budget but where the District is really "taking a hit" is on the revenue side of the budget. Because many people are out of work, the District is now not receiving as much earned income tax (EIT) collections. Please note that if folks applied for unemployment, the District does not receive EIT collections from unemployment benefits. For the month of April, EIT collections were about $24,000 less than what was budgeted and so far in May, collections are about $106,000 than what was budgeted. This is affecting our overall revenue picture significantly. Additionally, the amount of interest earnings the District is receiving is also on a downward trend. The Federal Reserve Bank (FED) reduced the short-term interest rates down to between 0.00 to 0.25%. This is causing revenue shortfalls in that line for the 19/20 budget and also is affecting the 2020/21 proposed budget where a $250,000 reduction has been budgeted for next year.
There are many things that affect a school district budget and before March 12, 2020, things were going as expected. The COVID-19 situation has disrupted society in general and we are trying to facilitate a "new normal" in school operations. As we look towards the future, we are incurring expenses such as for sanitizing all of the buildings and purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and students in order to comply with CDC projected guidelines for re-opening.
Curriculum and Instruction (Julien Drennan, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Prof. Dev.)
Thank you to all students and families for partnering with us and investing time, effort and energy to continue learning and engaging in the LM Learns! plan during the COVID-19 closure. Your willingness to rise to the challenge does not go unnoticed and we applaud your dedication. While I am certain many families are grateful that summer is nearly upon us, some may be wondering how to keep learning going during summer months. The LMTSD website offers teacher resource pages and school library pages that contain links to activities and websites that provide practice and challenge opportunities. For those who wish to step away from screens, encouraging students to take advantage of the slower pace of summer and read for pleasure, is a great way to keep minds sharp.
Keystone information for the Classes of 2022-2026
This spring the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced that Keystone exams would not be administered and that the scores would not be necessary for federal reporting purposes. While this appears to provide some relief from our current situation, for students in the Class of 2022 and beyond, the Keystones are still a necessary consideration for the completion of their high school career due to the state graduation requirement.
Pennsylvania requires that all students fulfill the graduation requirement and while Senate Bill 1095 eliminates Pennsylvania’s reliance on high stakes testing, the passing of the Keystone exams in Algebra I, Biology and Literature, remains the simplest path to graduation for most students.
Linked here is a description of each of the pathways to graduation, which expand the options for students to demonstrate post-secondary readiness that more fully illustrate college, career, and community readiness.
Lower Moreland High School and Murray Avenue School will communicate plans for the administration of the Keystone exams during the 20-21 school year. Students who were scheduled to retest this spring and students who were enrolled in Algebra I, Biology and/or American Studies this school year should be on the look-out for further information.
The HS Guidance Department livestreamed a presentation to the Junior Class about how COVID-19 is changing the college landscape.
Technology teacher Mrs. Kathy Krupa testing a robotic hand for a 5th Grade STEM class.
Human Resources/Public Relations (Cheryl Galdo, Esq., Dir. of HR/PR)
At the end of this school year, three teachers will be retiring after serving the District for many years. While we will not be able to show them our appreciation in person, we are finding ways to honor them including car parades and digital memory books.
This year's retirees are:
- Mr. Tim Reilly is retiring after 38 years of teaching English at Lower Moreland High School. He is also an assistant football coach for the LM Lions.
- Ms. Diane Farber has served as a 3rd-grade teacher at Pine Road Elementary for 25 years.
- Mr. Karl Powidzki is retiring with 14 years of service as a Math Teacher at the High School. He is also the Boys Basketball Coach and the Assistant Girls Basketball Coach at Murray Avenue School.
We thank each of them for their dedicated service to the Lower Moreland Township School District!
The district is working on an annual report that, in July, will be sent to families of students by email and mailed to non-student households in the community. This year's theme is "Achieving Together While Apart." The report will highlight the district's progress on the strategic plan that was released last year and students' accomplishments during this school year as well as how the district has continued its continuity of education plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also included will be 2020-21 school budget information and an update on the High School's building plans.
Technology (Jason Hilt, Ed.D., Director of Technology)
The Technology Department supports information technology systems and instructional technology programs and practices in the district. This month, we are highlighting how our students have been engaged in 21st Century learning activities focused on the 4Cs: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication.
Students are creating their own websites in biology class as a final project about a topic of interest. The topic list includes a variety of endangered species, bacterial, viral, or genetic disease or systems of the body. Students will use their skills and information they have learned this year to create a website after thoroughly researching their topic. Some common themes that students will discuss and research for their topic include homeostasis, characteristics of life, ecology, evolution, and genetics. Biology teachers are looking forward to the finished products created by our students!
As we all have embraced the many changes that have come about due to school closures this spring, our art department is proud to present a virtual tour of our Lower Moreland students' artistic successes. Click HERE to find the exemplary spirit of our students, in visual form! Although we couldn't come together in person to celebrate the beautiful art that our students have created this year, with the help of G Suiteproducts, such as Sites and Slides, student artwork from all three buildings was curated for our virtual district arts festival. Be sure to check out the Participatory Opportunity page for inspiration to create your own masterpiece!
Continuing to collaborate with our outside partners, Lauren McCaffrey was able to bring in a guest speaker, Bryan Berchok, from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation through a Google Meet to continue some of the learning in her class for students despite not being able to go onsite for various activities. Mr. Berchok shared about mental health and ways to further career skills during the pandemic. Students were able to ask questions and continue working together to build an understanding about continuing to develop life skills while keeping themselves healthy. You can see the presentation he shared with the students HERE.
Teachers across the district are using FlipGrid to allow students to communicate their thinking to one another and demonstrate their learning in various subject areas. Pine Road students are using Flipgrid to give book reviews, make reading connections, share classroom community topics, and demonstrate their learning through musical performances.
7th and 8th Grade Chorus singers expressed their artistry in our very own version of The Masked Singer! Students submitted Flipgrid videos of themselves singing any song they wished and used the emoji/sticker feature to hide their identities! Then, "Guest Stars" (other Murray Ave teachers) tried to guess each singer's identity and left positive and encouraging comments for all of the singers.
Students in Ms. McInerny’s HS Math class used Flipgrid to verbally explain their written work in equations. In one example, students were given three different equations and chose which they would like to solve. Along with the written work, students offered explanations for each step.
Ms. Lawlor’s students worked in groups to create a virtual unit in their HS Sports Management Class. One member of each team discussed the major rules and the team selection process in a video. Another member created a video discussing and demonstrating the bracket for the unit and officiating and scoring. The final member took one skill and demonstrated the critical elements in a step-by-step video.
Student Services (Frank Giordano, Director of Special Education and Student Services)
As the school year winds down, the Office of Student Services would like to thank all of our special education students and parents for their work, cooperation and support during this trying time. While our teachers and support staff did, and continue to do, a remarkable job of preparing and delivering a coherent educational program on a very short timeline none of it would have been possible without the support of parents and the hard work of our students. We have asked a lot of all of you during the last three months of school (which seem to have lasted a year themselves) and hope that you have a wonderful summer and find time to relax and enjoy some type of normalcy. The Office of Student Services will be open during the summer to assist with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the opening of school in August and what it means for our Special Education students. Please feel free to contact our office ar 215-938-7426. For those of you who have a child attending Extended School Year, we will “see” you in July!