Department of Education recommends return to school for Pa. elementary students

Department of Education recommends return to school for Pa. elementary students

PITTSBURGH — The Pennsylvania Department of Education is recommending that elementary students return to school in late January.

Department of Education Acting Secretary Noe Ortega said schools should consider bringing elementary students and targeted populations, such as students with disabilities, back for in-person blended/hybrid learning in the second semester, starting Jan. 25.

Ortega stressed that this is only a recommendation and is not mandatory. It is up to school leaders to make the decision.

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“We must remember that a safe return to in-person instruction will look different across every school and county depending on a variety of local factors,” Ortega said.

Bringing students back should hinge on local COVID-19 conditions, such as incident rates and percent positivity.

All K-12 schools should continue to have strategies to limit the number of people in classrooms and learning spaces, Ortega said. Protocols should include maintaining a social distance of at least six feet.

Ortega and Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said schools play a critical role in child development.

“The research on offering in-person instruction during COVID-19 continues to emerge,” Levine said. “While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of disease transmission entirely within a school setting where community spread is present, recent studies have shown that when mitigation efforts, such as universal masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene are followed, it may be safer for younger children, particularly elementary grade students, to return to in-person instruction.”

Fully remote learning remains recommended for middle and high schools.

Pennsylvania’s first case of COVID-19 variant confirmed near Harrisburg