Department of Education responds to state’s rising COVID-19 cases

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Pennsylvania is one of the five states that makes up 50 percent of all new coronavirus cases in the country.

Despite this, state education officials are encouraging residents to keep up hope as restrictions for schools loosen.

“That’s why we are laser-focused on vaccinating just as quickly as we can,” Dr. Wendy Braunt, COVID-19 Response Director for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania said. “Certainly we are watching the research, the evolving research around vaccinations in young people and are hopeful that we will have a vaccine for teenagers in the fall.”

Braund says a vaccine for younger children will take more time but is already in the works. As students and educational facilities balance hybrid and in-person learning, learning loss is becoming a new reality.

Officials are calling on teachers to help their students stay on track. They say the funding will be there

“The funding that is provided from the federal government, the most recent round of funding, requires a 20 percent set aside for districts to address learning loss, number one,” Matthew Stem, Pennsylvania Department of Education Deputy Secretary said. “And then number two, there is additional funding that’s being made available through the state for summer learning and additional day programs.”

Officials are also looking to the end of the school year. They say PSSA and Keystone exams are still federally required but they will be administered in a way that is flexible for school districts.

“We are allowing districts to administer the assessment in smaller groups of students and we are allowing districts to assess as late as into next September to ensure that they can safely administer the assessment,” Stem said.

Officials continue to stress the important of social distancing and mask wearing. They say more guidance on graduations and prom will be released in the near future.

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