EAST STROUDSBURG — The East Stroudsburg school board set a few rules Wednesday for resuming in-person education, but some parents had expected that a more thorough plan regarding COVID-19 would be presented at the special meeting.
If Monroe and Pike counties are still in the green phase on Aug. 31, all students will be allowed back for full-day school, the board decided. Up to 25 people will be permitted in a classroom.
The board also set a maximum of two students per seat on the school bus, an amount that does not allow for six feet between students, as the CDC’s social distancing guidelines call for.
Board member Damary Bonilla asked why the board wasn’t considering one student per seat.
That would create "an issue with the number of buses and bus drivers," board member George Andrews said.
Andrews, who repeatedly suggested that three feet of distance would be enough, claimed that with "two people per seat, we’re still keeping the distance properly."
Siblings could sit together, Bonilla said, but "if there’s somebody that doesn’t have a sibling, maybe they should have the right to sit on their own."
The board will vote on a plan on July 20, board president Richard Schlameuss said in response to parents who had expressed their expectations for more information.
What happens if one student gets COVID-19, "and then other kids start to spread and then a teacher gets it and we’re shutting down again?" asked Rebecca Hilgert, who identified herself as a mother and a crisis planner.
"What is the plan when this all goes wrong?" another woman asked.
Another parent wanted more details so that working parents can plan for the school year.
One single mother working from home said she needs flexibility to help her younger child in the evening, rather than at set times during the day when she’s clocked in.
During the meeting’s public comment portion, parents also made some suggestions to reduce the number of students at school at one time, such as alternating every other week, staggered days throughout the week or half days.
Some parents mentioned concerns about online learning, calling for more live interaction with teachers.
One mother, Lisa Massa, said it was "a little heartbreaking" to hear from one of her children that "he didn’t learn anything."
The livestreamed meeting was occasionally interrupted by comments like "Fire DeLong!" and "What about DeLong?" in reference to Ryan DeLong, an East Stroudsburg High School North teacher whom former students have recently accused of making racist comments.
The matter was briefly discussed when one commenter, acknowledging that the special meeting was about back-to-school plans, asked when other issues such as "staff misconduct" should be addressed.
"That’s a very fair question," Schlameuss said.
"We are aware of the issue," he added. "Let me say that. And we are having discussions about that, and we will be addressing it. But that’s all I can say at this time."
In the chat on the YouTube stream, some of those watching expressed their disappointment as interruptions went unanswered and the meeting ended without additional discussion of the matter.
One viewer wrote: "hope you’re reading this: we will not stop demanding your response regarding the delongs."
"I can't believe they brushed over it MULTIPLE TIMES. So you're okay having racist staff???" commented another viewer.