July 6, 2021
As we move into extended year activities and closer to the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, it is important to clarify how LEAs should address local health and safety plans, specific to COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will be archiving the 2020–21 school year public health guidance across the COVID-19 section of the website beginning on July 7. Moving forward, PDE and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) plan to align practices and policies for safely operating schools with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act and U.S. Department of Education require LEA Health and Safety plans, to the greatest extent practicable, implement prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the CDC for the reopening and operation of school facilities. While the current CDC Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention was last updated on May 15, 2021, we anticipate an update to their guidance soon.
As school communities develop plans for the coming school year, they should consider each of the mitigation strategies listed on the Health and Safety template in eGrants. Which of the strategies and to what extent each of the strategies are applied in your schools for the safety of students and staff is the Local Education Agency's (LEA) decision. PDE will review submitted plans only to ensure that schools have fulfilled federal requirements of completing the plan, addressing each of the listed strategies, obtaining approval by the governing body, and posting on LEA's publicly available website. Additionally, LEAs are to review their plans at least every six months or whenever there are significant changes to the CDC recommendations for K-12 schools.
As a reminder, the Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Requiring Universal Face Coverings was lifted on June 28, 2021. It is the responsibility of each LEA to have a locally determined face covering policy included in its Health and Safety Plan, referencing guidance from the CDC.
Lastly, it's important to note that under a Federal order issued in January 2021, the CDC requires face coverings, regardless of vaccination status, when on public transportation - this includes on school buses operated by public and private school systems. However, a driver does not need to wear a face covering if they are the only person on the bus.
Thank you for your continued efforts; we look forward to new beginnings and a brighter future ahead.