Already shuttered for nearly a month due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, an announcement by Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday that all K-12 schools in Pennsylvania will remain closed for the rest of the academic year did not come as a complete surprise.
Wolf said in a news release that the decision was made in consultation with Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and Sec. of Education Pedro A. Rivera.
“We must continue our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus during this national crisis,” Wolf said. “This was not an easy decision but closing schools until the end of the academic year is in the best interest of our students, school employees and families.”
The decision applies to all public K-12 schools, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers and intermediate units. All Department of Education early learning program classrooms, including those for Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) and Preschool Early Intervention, will also remain closed.
Under the order, all school re-openings beyond the end of the 2019-2020 academic year will be contingent on public health guidance provided by the Secretary of Health and stay-at-home orders issued by the governor.
Colleges and universities cannot resume in-person instruction or reopen their physical locations until the governor permits them to open or lifts the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses, the news release stated.
“While the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its mitigation efforts have created uncertainty in our schools and communities, today’s action to close schools for the remainder of the academic year provides school communities with predictability and understanding of the conditions under which they’ll be operating and serving students,” Rivera said. “As schools and communities adapt to the prolonged school closure, PDE will continue to work with our state, educational, and business and nonprofit partners to meet the needs of students.”
In addition to the school closure announcement, through the order Rivera said he would continue to adjust requirements for the evaluation of professional employees and waive student teaching requirements that may not be possible in the context of school closures.
The news release noted that students and families can continue to pick up meals at designated sites.
Teaching and learning will continue, it said, with “schools…strongly encouraged to provide continuity of education for all students in the most appropriate and accessible ways possible.”
Saucon Valley and other local public school students have been learning remotely since March 23, and some parents have praised the manner in which the district pivoted to offer their children a virtual education.
It is not clear, however, how the ruling will impact things like graduation ceremonies and senior proms, which as of Thursday were still scheduled to be held in early June.
The department of education has been providing guidance to school communities in the form of FAQs. The guidance information is available at education.pa.gov/COVID19.