Students will still be attending classes in-person in the Gov. Mifflin School District, but some will now be mixing that with virtual learning.
The school board voted Monday to backtrack a bit from a plan approved Aug. 3 to fully reopen schools from the mid-March state mandate that shuttered buildings.
Now, students in grades seven through 12 will be starting the new school year in a hybrid model. The student body will be split in half, with half attending daily, in-person classes in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.
When they're not in class physically, students will learn virtually.
Students in kindergarten through sixth grade will continue to have their lessons fully in-person.
District spokeswoman Melissa Fullerton said the shift was in response to new guidance provided by the state last week.
On Aug. 10, the state Department of Health and Department of Education unveiled an online tool that puts counties in categories based on the risk of community transmission of COVID-19: low, moderate or significant.
Each of the categories feature recommendations on how schools should start the year. For the moderate category, where Berks falls, the recommendation is either full virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person classes.
Fullerton said the change to a hybrid system for older students will allow the district to keep down the number of people inside schools.
For example, she said, the high school typically has about 1,400 students. But with the hybrid model, along with the number of families who have chosen a fully online option being offered by the district, there will only be about 500 in the school at one time.
"It cuts the numbers in a building by more than half," Fullerton said.
At the elementary level, the number of students in each building is manageable without going to a hybrid model, Fullerton said.
She said the school board will review the district's COVID-19 health and safety plan at each of its meetings and anticipates fully opening schools when Berks makes its way into the "low risk of community spread" category.
Mifflin is set to start the 2020-21 school year Aug. 31.
With Mifflin changing course on how it will start the new school year, the Hamburg School District is the one in Berks still planning to reopen with all in-person instruction.
Seven districts are planning to reopen online, with 10, including Mifflin, having a mix of virtual and in-person.