Schools could reopen in the fall with strict social distancing guidelines PHOTO

Education Secretary Pedro Rivera. Source: PACast

Harrisburg, Pa. -- Pennsylvania schools got a slightly clearer picture Monday when Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, testifying in a Senate committee hearing, acknowledged schools will need additional aid to respond to all the challenges posed by COVID-19.

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The Department of Education released a statement through email, "The Department of Education fully expects students to return to school in the fall in some capacity and is currently developing a plan to help guide schools as they prepare for the new academic year. The health, wellness and safety of students, staff and communities remains the top priority, and the guidance will be grounded in the science and recommendations from the state Department of Health, current research on school reopenings and stay-at-home orders from the governor’s office. PDE will provide a framework of strategies to assist schools within the coming weeks."

Rivera said he expects students to return in the fall. His department will provide guidance throughout the coming weeks as staff, students, and faculty prepare for the fall return.

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Since March, more than 1.7 million Pennsylvania students have been away from the classroom, with schools closed. The shift has exposed challenges, as wealthier districts have transitioned to educate children online, while lower income communities are unable to make that transition. Hunger is an issue for families who rely on school lunches, mental health concerns abound, and child abuse claims have dropped, as mandated reporters are reporting fewer cases.

Schools will not be required to meet just one set of guidelines to reopen in the fall. The secretary has stressed schools would be given various options to meet social distancing guidelines, including smaller class sizes. 

Spring standardized testing was canceled, and Rivera says the department will not mandate testing in the fall. Reopening plans will also need to account for remedial education because of lost classroom time during the closures, Rivera said.