Pennsylvania Department of Education Releases Guidance on Reopening Schools

Pennsylvania Department of Education Releases Guidance on Reopening Schools

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person schooling was temporarily suspended in March. After months of waiting and wondering, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released “preliminary guidance” for reopening schools. While the plans will continue to evolve, this guidance should be considered as a starting point. 

Pennsylvania’s Guidance for Primary and Secondary Education

School districts that are in yellow phase counties are allowed to resume in-person instruction after July 1. They are required to follow the state Department of Education guidelines, the state Department of Health guidelines, and the CDC’s guidelines. Every school district for primary and secondary education is required to draft a Health and Safety Plan before students are allowed to return. It must keep Governor Wolf’s color-coded plan in mind. The plan has to be approved by the district’s board of directors before it is submitted to the state Department of Education for review. The plan must also be posted on the school district’s website before reopening.

Some protocols include having a pandemic coordinator or team that is responsible for COVID-19 mitigation. This can include having steps to protect children who are vulnerable to the virus, having guidelines for quarantined students, staff, or administrators on when they can return to school, guidelines to wear masks, social distancing etiquette, etc. 

Schools that are in green phase counties will have in-person instruction but must have backup plans in the event that the spread of COVID-19 in their communities reemerges. The schools must have the same protocols in place as schools in the yellow phase. Schools that are still in the red phase are required to continue remote instruction.

Pennsylvania Guidance for Postsecondary and Adult Education

There are two sections to the reopening plan for postsecondary and adult education in Pennsylvania. This is as follows:

  • Phased Strategies, Expectation, and Considerations for Safely Resuming In-Person Instruction in Pennsylvania: In this section, universities and colleges in red phase counties will only be open for in-person instruction for specific medical, nursing, and allied clinical health training programs. In yellow phase counties, limited on-campus instruction will be allowed. However, administrations must have strategies that prioritize the health of students, staff, and faculty. Those in green phase counties can more fully resume in-person instruction and other operations. There can be no non-educational event that has more than 250 people attending. Postsecondary schools in yellow phases will be able to resume limited in-person operations on June 5.
  • Guidance and Recommended Practices for Resuming In-Person Instruction and Other Routine Operations at Postsecondary Institutions in Pennsylvania: Face coverings should be worn by all students, faculty, and staff in classrooms, shared spaces on campus, and anywhere where social distancing cannot be followed. Exceptions are to be made only for individuals unable to wear masks due to health conditions. Gloves and face shields must be available for certain activities. Campus events are advised to have limited seating in common areas, gyms must be disinfected regularly, and spectators of sporting events should be somewhat restricted. More guidance regarding college sports will be coming as time goes on. Residence halls, shared bathrooms, and classrooms should observe all CDC guidelines on sanitation and distancing. Vulnerable populations should be prioritized by encouraging teleworking. Guidance will also be provided on what to do should there be a new case on campus.

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Anderson, Converse & Fennick is an experienced law firm in York County, Pennsylvania focusing on Education Law, Family Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation matters. If you need a knowledgeable attorney that will effectively represent your interests, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.

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