School districts gearing up for a return to class

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HAZLE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — For many districts the push for opening schools safely depends on proper funding, PPE and vaccinations.

It’s the largest school district in the region, the more than 12,000 students of Hazleton Area as well as their teachers, eager to get back into these classrooms.

“Certainly, we wanted them back in September. It just didn’t happen,” said Brian Uplinger, Superintendent of Hazleton Area School District.

And so, it’s been online learning and packet work for students K through 12. Despite the best of planning, it’s been rough on Uplinger, all of his staff and students.

“March 2020 was a was a big eye opener for a district our size. We’ve done a lot of good, good things in that time period and then moving into the fall.”

Now, plotting a course for an April return to classrooms. It comes as orders for sufficient Chromebooks from March of 2020 were recently filled in January, and now ready for distribution.

Returning to class, even in a hybrid learning environment, means it will take more than technology.

“PSEA joined other education groups to send a letter to the Wolf Administration. They asked the administration to take some decisive steps to prioritize the computer’s inspection process,” said Chris Lilienthal, asst. director of communications, PSEA.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association says the safe return of teachers to classrooms means a commitment to getting them vaccinations.

“We look across the nation 26 other states are making the vaccine available to some or all of their educators and school staff right now. So, if 26 states can do it here in Pennsylvania,” Lilienthal said.

While efforts to secure vaccinations for those in the current category of the state rollout plan has been hard enough, it’s a push that will continue, especially for some of the regions’ larger districts.

“So, we just have to make sure that we’re bringing the students back and we’re doing it very safely and doing it. The best way that we can,” said Uplinger. 

It’s been a trying year for the school district technology is now up to par but, again, the focus is vaccinations and getting back in these buildings.

The superintendent tells us, Hazleton Area Hopes to get in-person learning started by mid-April. That would give teachers and students at least 45 days of in-person instruction for this school year.

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