Pa. Department of Education Issues Dates, Guidance for Reopening Schools
After being closed to in-person instruction since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania K-12 schools and universities will soon be allowed to reopen, provided they have required health safety plans in place, according to new guidance issued Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Postsecondary schools located in counties in the yellow or green phase of reopening are permitted to begin in-person instruction on Friday. That includes colleges, universities, seminaries, trade schools and adult basic education programs.
Elementary and secondary schools in the yellow and green phases may resume in-person instruction and activities beginning July 1.
First, however, a health and safety plan must be developed following Centers for Disease Control and Department of Health guidelines. According to an education department news release, the plan must include:
- 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.
Plans must be approved the local school board, made available on school and district websites and submitted to the Department of Education.
The guidance applies to school districts, 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," the release said.
The 13-page preliminary guidance document for K-12 schools can be viewed here.
Before reopening, postsecondary schools also must have a health a safety plan that adheres to physical distancing and other guidelines from the CDC and Department of Health.
While Penn State has already planned to continue remote instruction through the summer, university leaders left open the possibility of a phased return to campus in the second half of the summer if conditions allow. The university also is expected to announce its plans for the fall semester by June 15.
The 16-page guidance document for reopening postsecondary schools can be viewed here.
“Educators, students and caregivers have done a remarkable job as we all navigate through this pandemic,” state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said. “Now we need to direct our energy to focus on how to resume instruction in the 2020-21 school year. We fully expect students to return to classrooms in some capacity and are confident that schools will use this guidance to build a framework that best meets the unique needs of their students and communities.”