CHAMBERSBURG – A peaceful protest Tuesday evening was followed by a vote by the Chambersburg Area School Board that will gradually send students back to the classroom, beginning Oct. 19.
“A lot of people want their kids in school. Some want virtual education but want the software to work. The bus drivers want to get back to work,” said Tracy Hershey, who organized the protest. “I hope they listen.”
The protest was attended by about 50 people, including a group of bus drivers.
“There was already a nationwide shortage of bus drivers,” said Ryan Meyers, of Ryan Meyers LLC bus company, which employs about a dozen drivers. “A lot of companies have lost drivers. You can’t guarantee when they’ll go back to work. It takes at least two months to get clearances and get them ready to drive. Meanwhile, we have to pay insurance, inspections, bus loans … we just want to get everybody back to work and get the kids back to school.”
Seven-year-old Irvenson Holden held a neon green sign that read, “I want to be back at school learning.” He said he misses seeing his friends, playing kickball and doing math.
“It’s terrible,” said Irvenson’s mother, Karen Holden. “I have four kids in the district from K-10 and it’s not working for any of them. Sometimes technology, sometimes keeping them focused. These kids are struggling emotionally and mentally. Let the decision whether or not to do virtual or in-person schooling up to the parents. We know what’s best.”
A few members of the school board – Michael Finucane, Kris Scritchfield and Kevin Mintz – along with Superintendent Dion Betts and attended the protest and spoke with groups of parents.
During the meeting, several letters and comments were read into the minutes in support of in-person learning followed more than an hour of discussion that included COVID data and a variety of reopening options.
Director Kris Scritchfield made a motion to reopen schools for K-5 beginning Oct. 26 and a week later, 6-12, using AA/BB schedule.
“I want to start Oct. 12, not later,” Director Ed Norcross said.
“My phone is blowing up because teachers are saying they need more time for professional development, that so many things are being thrown upon them,” Scritchfield said.
Director Sally Brooks suggested splitting the difference and start Oct. 19. Scritchfield amended her motion accordingly, with K-5 starting Oct. 19 and one week later, 6-12 starting Oct. 26, with an AA/BB schedule. Parents have the choice to have their students return to the classroom or remain virtual learners.
“I believe this compromise gives the chance for them to get the things installed into the schools and get the teachers prepared to do this transformation,” Brooks said.
The board voted 7-2 in favor of the return, with directors Michael Finucane and Ed Norcross voting against the plan. “No, it’s too late,” Norcross said.
More details will be sent to families in the district or will be available online at www.casdonline.org.