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​September 3, 2021

Dear Colleague,

The health and safety of Pennsylvania's students are at the forefront of our minds as we begin this school year. The announcement of the Order signed by Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of Health requiring face coverings to be worn in all school entities, that takes effect on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, is intended to ensure that schools can continue to offer in-person instruction and keep students and staff healthy in the midst of an aggressive variant of COVID-19.

We recognize that implementing this Order has been difficult for many of you and your school communities; however, please keep in mind that this Order is about ensuring students stay safe in your schools. One only needs to read the news across the Commonwealth and nation to see the number of schools that have already had to close or quarantine significant numbers of students to understand the importance of this Order.

To clarify components of the Order, we have added to and adjusted some of the Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) we originally distributed on Tuesday. Please reference these FAQs to ensure your school entity is fully implementing the Order, including with respect to targeted exceptions to the Order.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health continues to evaluate community transmission rates, vaccination data, and other indicators, and will use this information to inform decisions about the Order's statewide application going ahead. We will provide an update on the Order by October 1, 2021.

As a reminder, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has established the same practice that was implemented last year, which is to consider the COVID-19 global pandemic an emergency as contemplated by Section 520.1 of the School Code. This enables school entities the flexibility to request periods of remote learning to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. School entities can apply for this provision to satisfy the 180-day and 900/990 hour statutory requirements again this school year. Access more information and the template on PDE's website. Any questions related to this update should be sent via email to PDE's School Services Office: RA-PDE-SchoolService@pa.gov.

Your efforts to maintain orderly and safe school conditions, foster consistency for your students, and navigate divergent community sentiment have been heroic. I think we can all agree that our students' long-term prospects depend on schools remaining open for full-time instruction.

As always, thank you for your leadership, commitment, and perseverance on behalf of your students and school communities.

-Noe