In a statement released Friday, and which can be read in full below, the Chester County Health Department, which is currently serving both Chester and Delaware counties in their coronavirus pandemic response, said, "Such a start will mitigate any impact anticipated by increased cases due to the end of the summer holiday."
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Chester County health officials said come October 9, districts in both counties that opted to follow the virtual guidance can reassess whether to continue virtual instruction.
Schools providing special education, early childhood development programs, or career and vocational education are exempt from starting the academic year virtually.
The Owen J. Roberts School District says it has changed its reopening plans in accordance with the new recommendations.
Originally, parents in the district could choose from virtual or hybrid instruction.
In a letter to the community, Superintendent Dr. Susan Lloyd said this will mean that on September 8, the district's elementary school students, as well as its secondary students, will start the year virtually through October 9. She said special education students with IEPs or 504 Plans may attend in-person and athletes may continue preseason training.
"I understand that many will be disappointed by this current development. I have been very vocal in my belief that students need to return to in-person teaching and learning if only for a few days a week. However, from the beginning, the OJR School Board and I have been equally vocal about the necessity to adhere to the guidance from our local health authority in order to keep everyone safe and healthy," Lloyd said. "Thank you for being nimble as we move through these very fluid times together."
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Chester County Health Department Public and Private School Guidance:
The Health Department recommends that public and private K to 12 schools in Chester County and Delaware County begin their academic year virtually and assess their ability to transition to a more in-person instructional model after October 9, 2020. Such a start will mitigate any impact anticipated by increased cases due to the end of the summer holiday (as seen during July 4), and ensures school districts have the
necessary time to implement the guidance set forth in this document.
Schools providing special education, early childhood development programs, or career and vocational education are exempt from starting the academic year virtually and are strongly recommended to follow
the additional guidance provided in the Students Served by Special Education, Early Childhood Development Programs, or Career and Technical Education Programs section for additional guidance.
Consideration for transitioning between instructional models will be based upon a review of the thresholds.
- Transitioning to a more in-person instructional model can only be considered when thresholds are met for three (3) consecutive weeks and at least a 0.5% cumulative decrease in positivity over the three weeks is reached.
- Transitioning to a more virtual instructional model can only be done when thresholds are met for two (2) consecutive weeks. It is recommended that reviews of thresholds occur at regular intervals to minimize frequent transitions between instructional models.
When transitioning to a more in-person based instructional model, it is recommended that the transition be a phased transition beginning with younger grades with an assessment of progress throughout the phasing.
Other factors that influence transitioning between instructional models may be considered such as widespread or significant outbreaks either within a school or the community, staffing levels, etc.
The success of a hybrid or in-person instructional model is dependent upon the school's ability to implement the guidance outlined in this document with fidelity.