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​July 16, 2021

Dear Colleague,

As indicated in my July 9 message, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released updated Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Kindergarten (K)-12 Schools. The CDC's updated guidance supports in-person learning while continuing to implement strategies to prevent transmission of COVID-19 among students and school staff.

The Pennsylvania Departments of Health (DOH) and Education (PDE) continue to advise school entities to follow current CDC guidance, to the greatest extent possible, when creating and implementing mitigation policies and practices for their communities. DOH and PDE will not be releasing separate state guidance or recommendations for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

DOH prepared an outline that highlights significant changes to the CDC's updated guidance - this outline is available on PDE's website.

Note that while previous public health guidance recommended alternative instructional models to prevent transmission, the recently updated CDC guidance prioritizes layered COVID-19 prevention strategies that can be implemented by schools to maintain in-person instruction safely. These prevention strategies will be critical as you work to help protect students, teachers, and school staff who are not fully vaccinated. Needs for the layering of specific prevention strategies will vary based on local levels of community transmission, vaccination coverage, and policies and regulations.

School leaders and communities should consider multiple factors when deciding on the layered prevention strategies to be included in their health and safety plans. In addition, plans should be developed to quickly transition to stronger containment or mitigation strategies as needed based on local factors, especially in areas of moderate and high levels of community transmission.

Additionally, I have attached a recently sent message from DOH.

DOH and PDE will continue to provide technical support to schools during the 2021-22 school year and provide updates as we continue to closely monitor the CDC guidance.

Sincerely,
Noe Ortega, Secretary of Education