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June 03, 2020

Pennsylvania K-12 schools can begin reopening in July, state officials say

Colleges, universities can resume in-person instruction Friday

Education Schools
pennsylvania schools post-covid CELIA ORTEGA/ON UNSPLASH

Pennsylvania schools can begin reopening later this summer – so long as they develop plans to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Pennsylvania elementary and secondary schools will be able to resume in-person instruction beginning July 1, provided they have a health and safety plan in place. 

The state Department of Education released guidelines Wednesday outlining the steps schools need to take to reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out.

Postsecondary institutions, including colleges and universities, can begin reopening Friday. 

All schools have been closed since mid-March, when the public health crisis arose. 

To reopen, schools must be located in counties that have advanced to the yellow or green phase of the state's reopening plan. But all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including Philadelphia, are expected to have exited the red phase by Friday.

The guidance issued by the Wolf administration requires public schools to develop a health and safety plan based on guidelines from the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The plans must include face mask guidelines, social distancing protocols, large gathering restrictions and procedures for sanitizing and disinfecting schools. They must outline steps to protect high-risk children and staff and to monitor them for coronavirus symptoms.

Schools also must designate a pandemic coordinator or team to direct response efforts. 

The guidance applies to all Pennsylvania school districts, regional charter schools, cyber charter schools, intermediate units, and career and technical centers. Private schools are not required – but encouraged – to make such plans.

"Educators, students and caregivers have done a remarkable job as we all navigate through this pandemic," Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said in a statement. "Now we need to direct our energy to focus on how to resume instruction in the 2020-21 school year. 

"We fully expect students to return to classrooms in some capacity and are confident that schools will use this guidance to build a framework that best meets the unique needs of their students and communities."

The health department previously provided similar guidelines for K-12 schools and postsecondary and adult education centers. Both are available here.

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