The Fairfield Area School District has experienced a year of uncertainty, fear, caution, and struggle that was met with success, optimism, flexibility and reassurance. Almost one year ago, the district was progressing through the second semester of an ordinary year, when an order to shut down from the Governor of Pennsylvania was announced. The district promptly maneuvered the impact from the global pandemic to provide education to the students. The community was supportive in the district’s efforts and challenges to virtually educate students with the available existing resources.
Due to specific Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines and recommendations regarding COVID-19, school administration met throughout the summer to plan and prepare for the safe return of students and staff. At the same time, the secondary buildings were in the final stages of an HVAC renovation project. The district buildings were also receiving technology upgrades with the installation of additional security cameras and wireless access points. This all added to the complexity of safely opening the buildings.
The teachers diligently prepared throughout the summer for multiple instructional possibilities. In addition, the K-12 FACE (Fairfield Area Cyber Education) program was developed. The program allows students to maintain Fairfield student status while attending virtual classes. The district contracted with outside agencies to assist school counselors in meeting the social and emotional health needs of the students. The summer culminated with the review and update of the district’s health and safety plan with all stakeholders in preparation for in-person instruction.
The 2020-2021 school year began on Sept. 8, 2020 in a hybrid model and continues to date. The model design provides the students two days of classroom instruction, two days of remote instruction, and one day of virtual instruction per week. In order for this instructional model to be successful, various resources are made available to students and families. The district secured additional electronic devices, which are issued to students upon parent/guardian written request. The implementation of additional services in the area of food service assure that students within the community receive a daily lunchtime meal. The athletic programs continue under specific guidelines and recommendations. High school students continue to display and share their talents in unique and novel ways. The coordinated efforts of students, faculty and staff within the changing guidelines and recommendations have made the successes of the 2020-2021 school year possible.
As more student activities open, the district welcomes the transition towards normalcy. With the end of the school year approaching, planning and preparation for upcoming opportunities continues for the students. Grants and COVID-19 relief funds are utilized to innovate existing as well as to implement new instructional design within the district. One such example, is the introduction of the Knights Academy in July. Incoming Kindergarten through rising eighth-grade students will be invited to participate in learning activities provided by district teachers within the buildings. The 2021-2022 school year will then begin with the continued goal of safely returning all students and teachers to the classrooms five days per week.