Exeter School District webstock

With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise in Berks County and across Pennsylvania, the Exeter School District is considering returning to fully virtual learning.

The district began the school year virtually, but on Nov. 2 shifted to a hybrid model where students have a mix of in-person and virtual classes.

On Monday, Dr. Kimberly Minor, district superintendent, sent a message to families in the school district saying that the school board will consider a motion at its Tuesday meeting to shift back to full virtual. If passed, it would take effect Dec. 1 and run through Jan. 15.

A second motion would pause all athletics and extracurricular activities for that same time span.

Minor's message said the rationale behind the move is a "dramatic rise" in COVID-19 cases in Berks and, in particular, in the areas that make up the Exeter School District.

The pandemic has also led to a situation where more than 35 district staff members are currently in quarantine, the message said.

"Most of these quarantines have resulted from exposures outside of school but they still cripple our ability to meet the needs of students in our schools," Minor wrote.

Minor's message went on to say that a report from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia showed a increase of community spread of COVID-19 following Halloween, and predicted further increases in the risk of community spread through the upcoming holiday season.

"Given our already high levels of community spread and our difficulties with staffing it is reasonable to predict that our situation will become more dire following the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays," Minor's message said.

Minor's message came the same day that a report from the state Department of Education labeled Berks as a county with a substantial risk of community spread of COVID-19. Berks has fallen into that category for five straight weeks after starting the year with only a moderate risk of community spread.

The department recommends that school districts in counties with substantial risk of community spread use a fully virtual model for instruction. That, however, is only a guideline and school districts have the power to chose whether or not to have students attend classes in person.

Tuesday's Exeter School Board meeting will be available online at youtu.be/jBUsgrMeXfg.

If you wish to attend the meeting in person, you must pre-register. Information on pre-registering can be found on the district website at exeter.k12.pa.us.

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