Harrisburg, PA (AP) — Two days of legislative hearings are giving Pennsylvania state lawmakers little reason for optimism about the set of problems ahead as schools plan to reopen during the pandemic.

The state House Education Committee heard experts say there’s been lots of planning but much concern about what lies ahead.

Among the issues are questions about what standards schools should use to decide whether to shut down a school or a district when an outbreak occurs, a prospect that looms large as the school year is about to begin.

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Harrisburg, PA (AP) — Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk.

The strategies being considered include limiting bus capacity, filling buses from the back and coming up with plans to handle children who exhibit symptoms. Planners have developed a wide array of strategies to reduce the health risks, but nobody has found a silver bullet.

Many schools are surveying parents to determine how many students will need bus transportation and how many plan to drive their kids to school. Others are making decisions about bus capacity that involve a trade-off between safety and affordability.

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Meanwhile, schools in our part of the state have generally decided to reopen to students in late August. Most schools are offering a variety of options for families, including in-person classroom instruction, online classes, or a blend of both.

 

DuBois, PA – DuBois Area School District plans to reopen schools on Aug. 24, with four options for students: in-person instruction at the school buildings, distance learning, a blend of the two, or the DASD Virtual Academy.

Safety regulations, sanitizing, social distancing, and masks will be used at DASD for in-person instruction.

 

Brockway, PA – The Brockway Area School District approved a flexible reopening plan that provides options for families as well as allows for changes in the state’s response to the pandemic.

The district plans to reopen August 27 with in-person instruction.

However, additional safety guidelines will be in place, including requiring teachers to wear masks, disinfecting classrooms with hospital-grade cleaning agents, and spacing students further apart. Currently, the school’s shop teachers are building hundreds of plexiglass shields to help divide students if classrooms do not have enough room to space students out sufficiently.

 

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Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania health officials are clarifying that students will need to wear masks in school, except in specific circumstances.

Read the full list of frequently asked questions.

 

Frequently Asked Questions regarding face masks in schools in Pennsylvania:

 

When does my child have to wear a mask?

Children 2 years old and older are required to wear a face covering as described in the Order, unless you fit one of the exceptions included in Section 3 of the Order.

If a child is outdoors and able to consistently maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from individuals who are not a part of their household, they do not need to wear a mask.

If a parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place a face covering safely on the child’s face, they should not do so.

If a child 2 years old or older is unable to remove a face covering without assistance, the child is not required to wear one.

The Department recognizes that getting younger children to be comfortable wearing face coverings and to keep them on may create some difficulties. Under these circumstances, parents, guardians, licensed child care providers in community-based and school settings or responsible persons may consider prioritizing the wearing of face coverings to times when it is difficult for the child to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from others who are not a part of their household (e.g., during carpool drop off or pick up, or when standing in line at school). Ensuring proper face covering size and fit and providing children with frequent reminders and education on the importance and proper wearing of cloth face coverings may help address these issues.

Do staff and children in child care facilities need to wear face coverings?

All staff must wear face coverings during child care operations.

The Department recognizes that getting younger children to be comfortable wearing face coverings and to keep them on may create some difficulties. Under these circumstances, parents, guardians, licensed child care providers in community-based and school settings or responsible persons may consider prioritizing the wearing of face coverings to times when it is difficult for the child to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from others who are not a part of their household  (e.g., during carpool drop off or pick up, or when standing in line at school).  Ensuring proper face covering size and fit and providing children with frequent reminders and education on the importance and proper wearing of cloth face coverings may help address these issues.

Any child who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability, and children who would be unable to remove a face covering without assistance, are not required to wear face coverings. Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or who has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication, also are not required to wear a mask. Other face coverings, such as plastic face shields, may also accommodate such disabilities.

Children do not need to wear face coverings if they are outdoors and able to maintain a distance of 6 feet from individuals who are not members of their household.

Does the Order of the Secretary of the PA Department of Health Requiring Universal Face Coverings apply to children and adults while in schools?

Yes, this order applies to all individuals while in school entities, including public K-12 schools, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers (CTCs), intermediate units (IUs); educational programming for students in non-educational placements such as residential settings (boarding schools), residential facilities, detention centers, and hospital settings; PA Pre-K Counts, Head Start Programs and Preschool Early Intervention programs; and Private Academic Nursery Schools and locally funded prekindergarten activities.

For the safety of students, staff and families and to avoid community spread of COVID-19, students and staff are considered to be members of the public who are congregating in indoor locations. As such, they are required to adhere to this Order.

The order is effective immediately and applies to all children aged two and older.

Under what circumstances are students permitted to remove their face coverings (e.g. masks and face shields)?

Schools may allow students to remove their face coverings when students are:

  1. Eating or drinking when spaced at least 6 feet apart;
  2. Seated at desks or assigned work spaces at least 6 feet apart; or
  3. Engaged in any activity at least 6 feet apart (e.g. face covering breaks, recess, etc.).

Do students with disabilities need to wear face coverings?

Any student who cannot wear a mask or face shield due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability, and students who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance are not required to wear face coverings.  Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or who has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication, are not required to wear a mask; however, individuals should consider using another type of face covering such as a plastic face shield.

Does the Order apply to athletes and sports activities?

Yes. Everyone must wear a face covering, such as a mask, unless they fall under an exception listed in Section 3 of the Order. Coaches, athletes and spectators must wear face coverings, unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition that prevent the wearing of face coverings, but must wear face coverings when on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. and anytime 6 feet of social distancing is not possible.