Superintendent Copeland’s Reopening Update


Camille Furer

On September 14, Lower Merion Superintendent Robert Copeland sent a district-wide school reopening update email, introducing the possibility of a hybrid learning format in October. The plan begins the week of September 29th with kindergarten students returning to school in AM or PM cohorts. This will be followed by first to third graders the week of October 5th, fourth to fifth graders the week of October 12th, and sixth through twelfth graders the week of October 19th.

The current format, which is being put before the school board, has students in cohorts, attending either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. The other days will be used for synchronous online learning or asynchronous online learning.

This is different from the original hybrid scenario introduced before the school year. The original plan had one group of students attending school Mondays and Tuesdays, while the other group attended Thursdays and Fridays, leaving Wednesdays for school deep cleaning. If lunch is a part of the school day, students would eat in classrooms to maintain social distance. Mr. Copeland wrote that the district is re-evaluating the earlier proposed plan but both remain “on the table.”

Lower Merion is working with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab to work toward reopening. Topics covered in the PolicyLab Review include sanitation, symptom surveillance, distancing, masking, ventilation and creating cohorts.

The district is taking as many measures as possible to ensure a safe opening environment for all students and faculty.

However, Superintendent Copeland emphasized that “we cannot eliminate the risk of exposure,” and “we cannot fit all of our students and staff in our buildings at the same time while maintaining physical distance,” while also reminding everyone that “we must remain flexible and align our plans to changes – such as surges in the numbers – that can occur at any time.”

Lower Merion schools will increase ventilation in buildings, hand sanitizer stations, hand washing, staggered hallway and pickup/drop-off times and locations. At home, everyday students and parents must check for Covid-19 symptoms (including coughing, chills, sore throat, etc), temperature and if they have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed case of Covid-19.