Safety Protocols Outlined For Reopening of Pennsylvania Schools

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaking at the virtual press conference.
Photo credit Office of the Governor

HARRISBURG (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - The Wolf administration announced updated safety protocols for Pennsylvania schools as they prepare to reopen amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our goal is to ensure a safe return to school for students, educators and staff by following best practices to mitigate the spread of the virus, including wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “In those instances when someone tests positive, public health staff from the department will immediately assist the school with risk assessment, isolation and quarantine recommendations, and other infection control recommendations.”

The state Health and Education departments outlined the following recommendations to schools:

  • Masks must be worn by students and staff at school and on the bus; masks are required as part of Dr. Levine's order earlier this month as required by the order signed by Sec. of Health Dr. Levine on July 1, with some exceptions.
    • Masks can be removed to eat or drink. 
  • Students or caregivers should do a daily symptom screening before leaving for school. 
  • Students, teachers and other staff are strongly encouraged to follow social distancing throughout the day with 6 feet of separation between desks and other seating.
  • If possible, hold classes in gyms, auditoriums, other large spaces or outdoors, where physical distancing can be maintained. 
  • Student seating should be facing in the same direction.
  • Limit student interactions by staggering class times, creating one-way walking patterns in hallways, and, when feasible, keeping students in a classroom and rotating teachers instead. 
  • For breakfast and lunch, consider serving individually packaged meals in classrooms and avoid across-the-table seating.  If meals are served in a cafeteria, sit students at least 6 feet apart.
  • Limit the number of students on playgrounds at one time and encourage social distancing.
  • Encourage the use of virtual gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities.

“The health and safety of students, teachers and staff must be paramount as schools prepare for the upcoming school year,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “The Department of Education has been focused on supporting schools with resources and best practices to help school leaders make informed decisions within their local contexts and in response to evolving conditions.”

In June, the Department of Education required schools to develop a health and safety plan that follows guidelines from the Department of Health and the CDC. The plan must also be approved by the school's governing body and posted to the school website before students and staff would be allowed to return.

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