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State Lists Recommendations for Reopening PA Schools

The guidelines use public health data to determine if Pennsylvania schools should have in-person or online instruction. (tanaonte/Adobe Stock)
The guidelines use public health data to determine if Pennsylvania schools should have in-person or online instruction. (tanaonte/Adobe Stock)
August 12, 2020

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania schools have new, science-based metrics to guide them in deciding whether they should open for classroom instruction.

The recommendations, issued Monday by the state departments of Health and Education, use weekly rates of COVID infection by population and percent of positive test results in each county to determine the appropriate degree of opening for local schools -- from in-person instruction to partial or fully remote learning.

Chris Lilienthal, assistant director of communications for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents school faculty and staff, said PSEA is urging schools across the state to follow the recommendations.

"Doing so will slow the spread of this virus," he said, "and will give our communities and our parents confidence that our schools are safe to open for in-person instruction."

He said earlier directives issued by the departments of Health and Education make it clear that with, few exceptions, all teachers and students must wear masks for in-person instruction. However, for the safety of school staff, students and their families, Lilienthal stressed that the state should issue further directives for in-person instruction.

"We still need state directives that make it absolutely clear that, in addition to wearing a mask, everyone must maintain six feet of social distance when they're in the school building," he said, adding that the state also should have clear guidance for what happens when a student or faculty member tests positive for COVID and when schools should consider closing buildings.

While there still is work to be done, Lilienthal said, he believes the new recommendations are the expert guidance school leaders need to keep everyone safe.

"This provides that path forward," he said, "so that we can make those decisions with good data and good science."

The guidelines are online at education.pa.gov.

Disclosure: Pennsylvania State Education Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA