Abington schools remain closed through May 4

Teachers working to provide materials for students

The swings at the Woodsdale Elementary School sit still as students remain home for a second week due to efforts to combat COVID-19 (Photo by Ricky Collins)

For a second week, Abington’s classrooms are empty. Schoolyards typically bustling with motion and sound are silent. And teachers are communicating with students through a webpage rather than in person.

“It’s sad and it’s disheartening,” said Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer. 

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday afternoon that he was extending the state’s school shutdown from April 7 to May 4 as part of the state’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. 

In an interview prior to Baker’s announcement, Schafer said the department was already making preperations for a longer closure.

Like their colleagues around the state, Abington school officials are navigating unchartered waters related to handling the unprecedented scholastic shutdown. For example, there still is no guidance, from either the federal or state education departments, on how schools will be expected to handle this year’s round of standardized testing, which would currently be underway.

Schafer also said there is no drop-deadline for deciding if and when classes would be cancelled for the remainder of the year. State law prohibits schools from holding classes after June 30; however that date is still more than 12 weeks away, and Schafer said there’s no logistical need to make a final determination at this point. 

The empty Woodsdale Elementary School parking lot (Photo by Ricky Collins)

“I’ll take whatever time we can have, even if it’s just to bring the kids back, to connect with them, and provide whatever resources we can,” Schafer said.

With students stuck at home, Schafer said Abington teachers are working to provide work and enrichment materials online. Students are also still able to access their online learning platforms. School officials this week sent passcodes to the parents of K-2 students so those students can also use the online platforms at home. However, because of state education policies, the online work isn’t mandatory and can’t be graded. 

“This can’t replace time on learning,” he said, adding students can learn as much as they want independently.

Schafer said while he hopes parents take advantage of the materials, they shouldn’t feel obligated to coordinate six hours of daily learning for their children; particularly depending on family circumstances during the ongoing public health emergency. Even if it’s as small as doing some reading, and then writing about what they read, Schafer said that will help preserve some of the learned skills. 

While the school administration offices located at the former Frolio School are closed to the public, a skeleton staff is available to handle information requests, or answer questions via phone or email. Department employees who able to handle their tasks from home are doing so, Schafer said. 

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