State guidance for reopening Pennsylvania schools will be a changing landscape

Back to School with Eyewitness News

This is a developing story will be updated as new information becomes available:

(WBRE/WYOU-TV) — As the clock winds down on summer vacation, school districts across the state are left with the daunting task of keeping children and staff safe should they return to in-person learning for the fall semester.

Some districts have released tentative plans for re-entry using a ‘hybrid’ schedule of remote learning and in-school classes based on The Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines.

Questions have been raised by some school administrators about specific guidelines and what to do if there is a positive COVID-19 case reported in their buildings.

New guidance from the Department of Education recommends that school districts reopen based on the amount of coronavirus spread in their counties. Possible instructional models include fully remote, fully in-person, or hybrid.

For counties with low spread, fully in-person or hybrid models are recommended while school districts in counties with moderate spread are recommended to go hybrid or fully remote. Counties experiencing substantial spread are encouraged to keep students completely remote.

Incidence rate, which determines whether a county has low, moderate or substantial spread, can be found on the Department of Health website.

Updated guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education says students must wear masks in school but may be able to remove them under limited circumstances such as when eating or drinking. This follows a July 1 order requiring universal face coverings which applies to all students, staff and visitors age two and older while in school entities.

For answers to FAQs on the Universal Face Coverings Order, visit education.pa.gov.

School districts have also been encouraged to follow Health and Safety Plan Considerations, which include but are not limited to:

  • Identify a staff member to serve in the role as the pandemic coordinator.
  • Identify members of staff and community to serve on a pandemic team to lead preparedness and response planning.
  • Define the roles and responsibilities of all members of the team.
  • Survey families within the school community regarding their perceptions and intentions related to in-person instruction and services.

Each district is also responsible for creating a Health and Safety Plan at the local level in order to address a district’s specific needs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education released guidelines on reopening schools based on the state’s color coded red, yellow and green phases plan. These guidelines would be utilized should the county that the district is in revert to a different color or phase.

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