Gov. Tom Wolf is confident that Pennsylvania students will return to their schools this fall.
“No question,” Wolf said during a news conference Friday at the headquarters of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency in Dauphin County.
“Now, schools will look different. I mean, you’ll probably have more online learning. And maybe less classroom learning,” Wolf said. “There might be fewer students in each classroom on average — that kind of thing.”
The governor ordered all schools in the state to close in March in response to the then-expanding coronavirus epidemic. The order was initially for 10 business days, but he later extended the closure order — first indefinitely and then for rest of the school year.
The governor said the Pennsylvania Department of Education plans to issue guidance to schools next week.
Responding to a question from a reporter, Wolf acknowledged the possibility that schools might not reopen. But he downplayed that possibility, saying that “if a comet strikes” the state might have to change its plans.
Wolf led off the press conference by offering his condolences to the family of George Floyd, the African-American man who died during an arrest in Minneapolis on Monday.
“It reminds us what we need to do here in Pennsylvania as well. This happened in Minnesota, far away, different state. But every one of us, each and every one of us in Pennsylvania has a stake in making sure our society is fair, that we treat everybody equally,” Wolf said.
The other highlight of the gathering was Wolf’s announcement that much of western Pennsylvania will move to the green phase of his coronavirus reopening plan, including Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County. The additional counties moving to green next Friday are Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Philadelphia and the collar counties in southeastern Pennsylvania will shift to the yellow phase, he confirmed. The last counties under the tightest virus restrictions, home to some of the most populous communities in the state, will start to reopen next Friday, June 5. Besides Philadelphia County, they include Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, and Montgomery counties.
The governor also said he signed the nearly $26 billion interim state budget. The plan includes a full year’s worth of funding for many education line items. Many other parts of the state budget are only funded for five months.