Over this past summer, the PA Department of Health and Department of Education issued guidelines for school districts to follow regarding COVID-19 and the reopening of school districts. A three-tier system was implemented based on county transmission levels of COVID-19. “Low” transmission levels would allow districts to offer in-person instruction without modifications. “Moderate” transmission levels signified the need to provide a hybrid option of both in-person and remote learning models to help reduce class sizes and create social distancing. A “Substantial” transmission designation would dictate a full remote learning model for all students in the district. Based on the guidance issued from the state medical professionals, along with the recommendation of the Shenango Health and Safety Committee, the district adopted the guidelines and incorporated them into our health and safety plan.
We began the 2020-2021 school year in the “moderate” phase offering both in-person and remote learning models. At that time, the county transmission level was 13.9 per 100,000 residents. We first reached the “substantial” transmission level the week ending October 23 with an incident rate of 100.9. After the second consecutive week of incidence rates at the substantial level, the district began the full-remote learning model on November 5. This model followed our safety plan with guidance from the department of health.
As of Friday, December 4th, the Lawrence County transmission rate per 100,000 people was 431.6 with a positivity rate of 20%. The latest transmission rate of 431.6 signifies the highest transmission rate for the county since the inception of the Department of Health Dashboard. The week prior, the transmission rate was 270.4 with a positivity rate of 15%.
Therefore, by following the DOH and PDE recommendations, along with our safety plan, the earliest possible return to in-person learning would be December 21st if county levels return to moderate transmissions levels for two consecutive weeks. Factoring in the upcoming holiday break scheduled on the district’s school calendar, the in-person learning model will not occur at least until after January 1. We will continue to track the county incidence rates and keep you informed.
We understand and agree that remote learning is not ideal and may put a strain on families and students. However, we must take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, families, and teachers. It is our goal to get our students back to in-person instruction at the earliest possible date while continuing to follow state guidelines and the district’s health and safety plan.
Dr. Michael Schreck