School districts struggle with wording of reopening guidance from Harrisburg

Jim Melwert
July 23, 2020 - 4:12 pm

    MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio)  The wording in the guidance from Harrisburg on reopening schools is causing some serious headaches as districts try to balance the safety of students with the needs of education.

    The guidance that came from Harrisburg last week said there should be “6 feet of separation between students and staff throughout the day to the maximum extent feasible.”

    Colonial School District Superintendent Mike Christian, in his recommendation of the best plan to reopen, said they were ready to offer in-person classes five days a week, but changed it to a hybrid plan of two days per week based on that 6-feet wording.

    “But the guidance on July 16 says multiple times and stresses multiple times that 6 feet is the desired distance so that students and staff can be safe,” he said. 

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    Montgomery County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh has said for weeks she’s been in constant contact with all the superintendents in the county, and said the guidance the county put out, in collaboration with those districts, recommends 6 feet where feasible.

    “And then we offer suggestions when 6 feet is not feasible, and that includes wearing a mask and a face shield, purchasing sneeze guards, which are those little partitions that can go around and in between students,” she said. 

    She noted anything less than five days in a classroom is a challenge for younger students.

    “They cannot be left at home alone and they also are the least successful distance learners,” Arkoosh said. 

    When asked for clarification, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health said decisions will be made closer to the start of the school year, then recommended the question be asked to the Department of Education. They haven’t responded.

    Schools are voting on their plans this week and next week.