Compiled By Duane Good
As preparations ramp up for the 2020-21 school year, many questions remain about just how that year will ‘‘look’’ in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Will all students be back in buildings, or only some? Can all fall sports be played, or only a few? And will spectators be allowed to watch in person?
At press time for this week’s issue, state government has issued what it calls ‘‘preliminary guidance’’ for school operations – guidance that is subject to change between now and the formal start of classes two months from now. ‘‘It’s a moving target,’’ Superintendent Dr. Diane Best told Williams Valley board members at a recent meeting.
The Story So Far The state Department of Education recently advised districts to draft their own individualized Health and Safety Plan, specific to the needs of their school buildings, students and staffs. These plans must be granted board approval, then forwarded to the state for review. (Private schools are encouraged to develop plans as well.) The plans must outline how the district will keep its students and staff healthy and safe through the pandemic.
Particular attention must be given to those in buildings at higher-risk for severe illness; steps to take if anyone, including a visitor, tests positive and must be quarantined; cleaning, disinfecting, ventilation and sanitizing procedures; signage throughout buildings promoting protective steps; procedures for safe use of cafeterias. Each district also must appoint a staff person as a ‘‘pandemic coordinator,’’ an individual who has oversight for the Health and Safety Plan’s execution before and during the school year.
Pending any change between now and August, all Sentinel-area schools will open under Green, the least restrictive of Pennsylvania’s three “color phases’’ for conducting business and social activities. Green continues to encourage social distancing and limitations on gatherings of more than 250 people. Each school should account for the possibility that situations outside the school walls could change and account for those conditions and include those scenarios in their individualized plans, according to the Education Department. Interscholastic sports are permitted in school districts in Green or Yellow-phase counties. Each district’s individualized Health and Safety Plan must address how
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Williams Valley and Millersburg teams go at it on the field last season. The form in which interscholastic sports will take this fall remains unresolved at the present time. (Sentinel photo by Mandi Trawitz)