With Westmoreland County’s rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) community transmission remaining in the “moderate” category for a second straight week last week, learners across all grade levels in Ligonier Valley School District (LVSD) will be able to return to the district’s hybrid instructional model today, Feb. 16.

Under the hybrid instructional model, one group of learners attends classes in the brick-and-mortar setting on Mondays and Tuesdays while another group participates in remote learning those days. Wednesdays are full-remote instructional days as district staff clean and sanitize the school buildings, then the learners who were in the buildings earlier in the week receive remote instruction on Thursdays and Fridays while their counterparts return to in-person classes those days.

Some LVSD learners had been back in classrooms since Jan. 21 after the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the state health department in early January revised recommendations regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) community transmission rate instructional models.

Previously, districts in counties with a “substantial” rate of community transmission were recommended to operate under a full-remote instructional model for all students.

State officials walked back that recommendation, suggesting school districts allow elementary students to return to a “blended learning model” regardless of their county’s community transmission rate.

Following the change in recommendations, Ligonier Valley brought learners at Laurel Valley Elementary and R.K. Mellon Elementary, as well as sixth-graders at Ligonier Valley Middle School back to the hybrid instructional model on Jan. 21.

Shortly thereafter, the district was able to offer four days a week of in-person learning to “targeted populations” within the district.

Superintendent Dr. Christine Oldham said those targeted populations included the district’s “wee ones,” — 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds — as well as sixth-graders at Ligonier Valley Middle School, special education learners, learners with known internet issues that made full-remote learning especially challenging, those who attend Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center, high school seniors and any learners who were failing two or more courses at the conclusion of the first semester.

As of Feb. 8, 83% of the “wee ones,” at both Laurel Valley and R.K. Mellon elementary schools had taken advantage of the option to attend four days a week in the brick-and-mortar setting, Oldham said, while 63% of sixth-graders chose the four-day option.

Overall, Oldham said, 90% of the targeted population learners at R.K. Mellon and 97% at Laurel Valley chose the four-day option, along with 82% at the middle school and 77% at the high school.

“We had a good number of learners in those groups who decided to return,” she said.

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