|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has released guidance to allow elementary and secondary schools in the state’s yellow and green phases to resume in-person instruction and activities this fall under a phased reopening approach that first requires schools to develop health and safety plans based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state Department of Health (DOH).
According to administration officials, the preliminary guidance serves as a starting point for school leaders to consider in reopening preparations, and it will continue to evolve as further research, data and resources become available. Later this month, PDE will release additional guidance that outlines steps for school openings while addressing safe operations, teaching and learning and student wellness – with attention to equity throughout.
Elementary and secondary schools that want to begin offering in-person instruction or activities must first develop a health and safety plan, which will serve as a local guideline for all school opening activities. Plans must encompass several elements, including identifying a pandemic coordinator or team to lead response efforts; steps to protect high-risk children and staff who may be at higher risk; processes for monitoring students and staff for symptoms; guidelines for
hygiene practices; processes for cleaning and disinfecting; guidelines for the use of face masks; protocols for social distancing; and procedures for restricting large gatherings.
The plans must be approved by local boards of directors and posted on the school or district public website before a school reopens. The plans must also be submitted to PDE. The guidance applies to school districts, charter schools, regional charter schools, cyber charter schools, career and technical centers, and intermediate units. Nonpublic schools are strongly encouraged to create plans tailored to their unique needs and post them on their websites.
Finally, postsecondary schools in the yellow and green phases can resume in-person instruction following the development of a health and safety plan. The guidance applies to colleges, universities, seminaries, trade schools and adult basic education programs. Institutions must adhere to proper physical distancing guidelines and other general public health and safety considerations informed by guidelines released by the CDC and DOH.
Additional information is available at www.education.pa.gov
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office