As schools are beginning to reopen across the state of Pennsylvania, many parents rightfully have a great deal of concerns about the safety of their children. Whether schools are opening part time or full time in the next few weeks, parents are left wondering how long it may last and what would happen if there were to be a positive case of COVID-19 at their child’s school. Continue reading below to learn more about Pennsylvania’s plan of action.
School District Health and Safety Plans
In order for a school in Pennsylvania to reopen this fall, they are required to create and submit a Health and Safety Plan for approval. This includes developing a plan for notifying families of reported positive cases and school closures. This involves identifying isolation areas, transportation for sick individuals to go home, disinfecting, notifying health officials, staff, and families, and creating an effective communication system regarding closures.
Plans in most school districts state they will notify the Department of Health (DOH) if there is a positive case and follow their recommendations for next steps. They will then communicate with families in the district on what comes next, such as closing the school. It is important to note that some pieces of information, such as identifying the infected individual, cannot be shared as it violates HIPAA laws.
What if There is a Symptomatic Person at the School?
In the event that a student or staff member has symptoms while they are physically at school, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) created a flowchart to help deal with these situations. If the symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, it recommends the individual is isolated and sent home with a referral for a Coronavirus test. If the test comes back positive, the DOH will contact the individual, the parent, and the school for further guidance. Generally, this includes isolation, contact tracing, and figuring out next steps for the school. If the symptoms are not consistent with COVID-19, the DOH states there is no need to notify others when there is no positive case reported.
What if There is a Confirmed COVID-19 Case at School?
In addition to a flowchart, PDE created a matrix for schools to follow if there is a confirmed case on the grounds. The DOH will conduct contact tracing to determine who the sick individual was in contact with while they could have been ill. In addition to this, they will provide guidance for the district’s next steps. The key points from the Department of Health include the following:
- If community transmission is low and more than five individuals or more than 5% of people in a given school building test COVID positive, it’s recommended schools close for 14 days for cleaning.
- If community transmission is substantial, the standards are much lower. If one person tests positive, schools are recommended to move to a fully remote instructional model.
- If community transmission is moderate, DOH recommends schools close for 5-7 days for cleaning if there are 2-4 students who are COVID positive.
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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.