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State Health, Education Secretaries Issue New School Guidance, Say Hybrid Schooling Is Best Option

Seth Perlman

Pennsylvania’s health and education secretaries say a school hybrid model with both in-person and online learning is the best approach for reopening K-12 schools in the fall.

“Some form of in-person instruction is the most effective form of instruction for students,” said Education Secretary Pedro Rivera. “But given the fact that we’re dealing with a novel pandemic and we continue to learn more of COVID-19 practically each and every day, we have to take into account the best practice from both a public health perspective and a public education perspective. I would say, as school districts are starting to plan today, a hybrid approach is a good model that engages each of our communities.”

He said every community is different, though, and decisions will ultimately be local.

“Every community is different," Rivera said. "I mean, when you look at rural more remote communities, urban communities, at the end of the day what school leaders have to do is take all of the data, the research and the facts that we’ve made available to them and then make the decisions that best represent the needs."

New guidance issued Thursday maintains that everyone in an open school building will be required to wear a mask. Both the health and education departments strongly encourage schools to maintain 6 feet of social distancing at all times.

Districts, charters and private schools are required to create health and safety plans and post them online.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine says the best way to ensure students can return to schools in the fall is for individuals to take action now.

“Wear a mask, practice social distancing, practice hand hygiene," Levine said. "I think what we need to do now is everything we possibly can so that schools can reopen safely in the fall.”

Levine says if someone at a school tests positive, public health staff will assist the school with risk assessment, isolation and quarantine recommendations.