Dear Manheim Township Staff and Families,
Please read below for an important update. Yesterday afternoon, Governor Wolf and the Department of Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, held a press conference outlining new efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Some of those efforts focused on new mandates for school districts that are in the “substantial transmission stage.” At this time, all but four counties in the state are in the substantial transmission stage. The new orders for school districts in this stage include updated guidance and mandates regarding face coverings, temporary school instructional models, and gatherings.
Given these new orders, and Governor Wolf’s joint public statement (with the Governors of the Northeastern states) on November 19 regarding the importance of in-person learning, even in communities with high transmission rates, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has provided districts with a framework that allows in-person learning to continue while still focusing steadfastly on safety measures. Those safety measures involve the need for districts to enforce three key items; the first two are outlined on an attestation form to be signed by the Superintendent and the School Board President:
- Compliance with the wearing of face coverings;
- Compliance with the procedures for instructional programming, case investigation, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation, and cleaning efforts when a specified number of positive and probable cases occur within a school; and,
- Compliance with spectator participation requirements at school events and gatherings.
Universal Face Coverings
The updated Order requires all employees, students, and visitors to wear a face covering. Prominent signs must be posted and visible, stating that face coverings are required by the Order of the Secretary of Health. School districts may provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with a documented medical condition that makes it unreasonable for the person to wear a face covering. In order for our schools to remain open, staff and students must comply with the updated face covering order.
In our current PDE Health & Safety Plan, MTSD has required the wearing of face coverings at all times since the onset of this school year. There is “no change’ for our district; we are already in compliance with the updated Order. We will be posting more signs throughout our facilities that speak to the requirement of face coverings by the Secretary of Health.
Additional information on the updated Order requiring universal face coverings can be found here.
PreK – 12 Public School Districts Identification of COVID-19
The PDE offers new guidance for school districts that provides a more detailed look at the number of COVID cases in school buildings related to size, and how to address the need for temporary school closure and cleaning. The guidance provides recommendations specific to small school buildings (under 500 students), medium (500-900 students) and large buildings (over 900 students) in regards to the number of cases in the buildings and when to close buildings for thorough cleaning.
- Our K-4 buildings (Brecht, Bucher, Neff, Nitrauer, Reidenbaugh, Schaeffer) are considered “small” buildings under these guidelines;
- LRIS, MTMS, and MTHS are all considered “large” buildings under these guidelines.
This new guidance includes information on case investigation, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and provides information on what schools should do when a student or staff present symptoms of COVID-19 but are not a confirmed case. The PDE also notes that if case investigations, contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfecting can be accomplished in a faster time frame (than those listed on the chart), the length of closure time may be shortened.
MTSD will continually examine both county and district data, as well as consult with our local healthcare providers and the PA Department of Health in the implementation of our safety measures. Our Instructional Schedule for November 30 – January 22 has reduced the number of students in our buildings by remaining on a hybrid (“Yellow”) schedule for our schools, with a slow integration of face-to-face instruction at our elementary buildings. If at any time we need to pivot temporarily to full remote instruction due to issues associated with positive/probable cases, we will communicate with our families as soon as possible. This pivoting is part of the process outlined in the new guidance for school districts.
Requirements for Events and Gatherings
Revisions were also made to spectator participation at school district events and gatherings. The PDE has provided information relating to the maximum occupancy for indoor and outdoor events. This information will be used as the district plans for spectator participation for winter athletic events and other gatherings.
Our PDE Health & Safety Plan will be updated to include the new Orders and the attestation form. Thank you for your patience as we work through this information. As a district, we will remain as responsive and communicative about these mandates and all other COVID related situations, as appropriate.
Dr. Robin L. Felty
Superintendent of Schools