August 16, 2020
All private and public K-12 schools in both Chester and Delaware counties are advised to start with remote-only learning in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chester County health officials said.
Schools are recommended to conduct all-virtual instruction through at least October 9 before assessing a potential transition to in-person learning.
The delayed resumption of in-person learning across both counties “will mitigate any impact anticipated by increased cases due to the end of the summer holiday,” according to health officials. It also allows school districts to implement the safety guidance set forth by the county health department “with fidelity.”
Any consideration for transitioning between instructional models must be based upon an assessment of the county health department’s COVID-19 safety thresholds.
School districts with low community spread of COVID-19, which is defined as an incidence rate of less than 10 per 100,000 residents and a less than 5% test positivity rate, will be allowed to pursue in-person learning come October 9.
A hybrid instructional model will be encouraged for school districts with moderate community spread of COVID-19, which is defined as having an incidence rate of between greater than or equal to 10 and less than 40 per 100,000 people. It also indicates a percent test positivity rate of between greater than or equal to 5% and less than 7%.
School districts that are still experiencing high community spread of COVID-19 will be encouraged to continue with all-remote learning or implement a hybrid instruction model. High community spread is defined as having an incidence rate of between greater than or equal to 40 and less than 80 per 100,000 residents, or a percent test positivity rate of between greater than 7% and less than 10%.
Online-only instruction will be strongly recommended for school districts with very high COVID-19 community spread. That is defined as having an incidence rate of greater than or equal to 80 per 100,000 residents, as well as a percent test positivity rate of greater than or equal to 10%.
Transitioning to in-person learning can only occur when health department thresholds are met for three consecutive weeks and at least a 0.5% cumulative decrease in COVID-19 percent test positivity over the same time frame is achieved.
Schools transitioning to an in-person instruction model are encouraged to do so in phases by beginning with younger grades and continually assessing progress.
Implementing more virtual learning can only be done when the county’s COVID-19 health thresholds are met for two consecutive weeks.
School districts are recommended to assess the county health department’s thresholds at regular intervals to minimize frequent transitions between instructional models.
Widespread or significant outbreaks within a school or the community, as well as staffing shortages, can factor into the decision to transition between instructional models, county health officials said.
Institutions that offer special education, early childhood development programs, and vocational education are exempt from starting the upcoming academic year online.
The announcement made by Chester County’s health department comes just days after Pennsylvania offered additional guidance to school districts weighing which instruction model to implement for the upcoming academic year.
Chester County’s health department covers Delaware County because the latter does not have its own.