State issues new guidance for schools as many close due to mounting COVID-19 cases

Written by on November 25, 2020

State issues new guidance for schools as many close due to mounting COVID-19 cases

All but four of the 67 counties are now seeing substantial spread of the coronavirus.

By Julia Agos / WITF

November 25, 2020

The Wolf administration has issued new guidance for public school districts around the commonwealth.

It recommends schools in counties with “substantial spread” of COVID-19 — which includes a positivity rate over 10%, or incidents per 100,00 residents over 100 — use a remote instruction model only. All but four of the 67 counties are now seeing substantial spread of the coronavirus.

In the updated recommendations, the administration is requiring schools in areas with substantial spread to sign an attestation form confirming they will move to remote instruction or comply with the state’s orders for conducting in-person instruction. The orders include quarantining students and staff in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and closing facilities for sanitizing when two or more cases are confirmed.

Schools that do not comply will be required to transition to remote learning and suspend all extracurricular activities until COVID-19 cases decrease in their respective counties.

“All of us have a responsibility to slow the spread of this virus so our children can stay or return to the classroom,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.

The new guidelines come as the state continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases. A key coronavirus tracking model, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projects Pennsylvania will run out of intensive care beds in December.

“As our hospitals and health care system are facing greater strain, we need to redouble our efforts to keep people safe,” Wolf said.

Michael Williams is a second-grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary and president of the Central Dauphin Education Association in Dauphin County. He applauds the new rules.

He says he hopes the move will force districts that remain open to reexamine their instruction model.

“Obviously, it’s not the best-case scenario for instruction but it is the one that will keep the students and teachers safe,” Williams said.

The Central Dauphin School District, Susquehanna Township School District and the School District of Lancaster are among districts in the midstate that have announced a transition to online instruction for the remainder of the term.

“With each positive case, numerous students and staff are required to quarantine due to their close contact with the affected individual,” Central Dauphin Superintendent Norman J. Miller said in a statement. “This has, in turn, created staffing challenges across the District.”

Administrators plan to re-evaluate their approach over the winter break.

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