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Instructional Model Recommendations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

This page was created on August 10, 2020.

Are the Recommendations for Pre-K to 12 Schools in Determining Instructional Models mandatory?
No. These recommendations from the Departments of Health (DOH) and Education (PDE) are intended to provide an additional tool for school entities to use when making local decisions, which will also require school leaders to consider numerous local factors, including size of the school entity, classroom size, school resources, proportion of staff and students with special needs and underlying health conditions, and the ability to accommodate remote learning with equal access for all students. 

Which school entities should consider these recommendations?  

These recommendations apply to all non-residential Pre-K to 12 schools. This includes: public K-12 schools, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers (CTCs), and intermediate units (IUs). 

How will school entities know whether there is low, moderate, or substantial community transmission in their county?

Each week, PDE will publish a list identifying the level of community transmission (low, moderate, or substantial) in each county. 

What if a school entity is located in more than one county?

If a school entity is located in more than one county, DOH and PDE recommend that the school entity base decisions upon the county with the higher level of transmission. For example, if a school entity is located in two counties – one identified as having low transmission and another identified as having moderate transmission – the school entity should consider the instructional models recommended for moderate transmission counties (blended learning or remote learning, in this example). 

Where can I find other public health information about COVID-19 transmission in my county? 

Other public health information is available for every county in Pennsylvania on the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard. The data are updated every Friday as a 7-day rolling average. 

What should a school entity do if the level of transmission in their county changes week-by-week? 

A county’s corresponding threshold may change week-by-week as incidence and percent positivity rates rise and fall. In order to confirm stability of county transmission, when a county’s corresponding threshold changes, school entities should wait to see the results from the next 7-day reporting period before considering a change to their instructional models. To ensure the most effective transition for students, it may be appropriate for a school to wait even longer, up to a full marking period, to transition to an instructional model that increases in-person instruction. It is important to note that a significant and/or widespread outbreak may require moving to a more remote-based model more quickly. The Department of Health will provide proactive consultative assistance to school entities should such an outbreak occur. 

How did the Departments determine the measures and methodology associated with these recommendations?

The recommendations contained in this guidance rely on two standard public health metrics: incidence rate and the percent positivity of diagnostic testing. These measurements are utilized by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and have been adapted to identify thresholds representing low, moderate, or substantial community transmission of COVID-19. The White House Coronavirus Task Force also excludes localities with fewer than 10 cases over a prior 7-day period.  

Are schools required to incorporate these recommendations into the Health and Safety Plans approved by their governing bodies?

No. Local education agencies (LEAs) that submitted Health and Safety plans to PDE do not need to update their plans so long as they account for the universal masking order dated July 1, 2020.