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November 12, 2020

Pennsylvania teachers union calls for more schools to pivot to remote learning as COVID-19 cases spike

More than half of the state is experiencing substantial community spread, state data shows

Education Schools
PSEA COVID-19 instruction Austin Pacheco/

'Temporarily pausing in-person instruction and transitioning to remote learning will allow students to remain on track academically without any risk to their health,' PSEA President Rich Askey says.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association is urging school districts to adhere to the state's public health guidelines as the coronavirus pandemic worsens throughout the state. 

Any district located within a county experiencing substantial community spread of COVID-19 should shift solely to remote instruction, PSEA President Rich Askey said Wednesday in a statement

That request falls in line with statewide guidance. The state deems counties as having substantial risk if they have a test positivity rate of at least 10% or an incidence rate of at least 100 cases per 100,000 residents. 

Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 38 are currently experiencing substantial community spread of COVID-19, according to state data. They include Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

"The state departments of Health and Education developed these guidelines based on good science and what the infection rates are in a school’s community," Askey said. "We must follow these guidelines to the letter. It’s the best way for us to slow the spread of this virus and keep our students, staff and their families safe."

The PSEA represents about 180,000 teachers and other educators. It is an affiliate of the National Education Association. 

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia also has issued a strong recommendation for all Philly-area schools to pivot to all-remote learning for two weeks, beginning Monday and continuing at least seven days after Thanksgiving. 

Earlier this week, the School District of Philadelphia postponed indefinitely its plans to revive in-person instruction for some students initially slated to return later this month. 

Montgomery County health officials are expected to vote Thursday on whether to require all county schools to conduct virtual-only instruction for two weeks beginning Nov. 23 – the Monday before Thanksgiving.

"We commend those school districts that are working collaboratively with the state Department of Education to match their instructional models to the guidelines," Askey said. "It is absolutely unacceptable for any school district to disregard the advice of medical professionals and scientists during a pandemic and put the safety of students, staff and their families at risk.

"Temporarily pausing in-person instruction and transitioning to remote learning will allow students to remain on track academically without any risk to their health," he added.

The PSEA’s call for shifting more schools online comes as COVID-19 infections are surging throughout the country. Pennsylvania recently has set record highs for new daily cases. 

The state recorded 4,357 additional cases Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 243,368 since the pandemic began.

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