HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union is asking state officials to direct public schools to plan for an online start to school if the spread of the coronavirus doesn’t slow by the fall.
Pennsylvania State Education Association President Rich Askey, in a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, said it is “extremely important for Pennsylvania’s public schools to plan for the distinct possibility that further increases in COVID-19 cases will make it impossible to safely reopen Pennsylvania’s schools for in-person instruction.”
Askey, in his letter, emphasized that educators want to return to the classroom. However, health risks associated with COVID-19 “may be impossible to prevent in school buildings if the current increase in Pennsylvania cases continues.”
He pointed to an “increasing number of Pennsylvania educators and parents” who are concerned that reopening schools for in-person instruction poses significant health risks.
The full letter can be seen here.
The news comes on the day that the state released updated school reopening guidance.
The updated guidance clarifies that students must wear masks at all times during the school day, except when eating, drinking or situated 6 feet apart. The guidance also includes new recommendations on social distancing, transportation safety, and procedures in the event a student or staff member becomes infected.
Pennsylvania, like the rest of the nation, is grappling with how best to begin school as cases of the virus continue to rise across the state and country. Public opinion on whether schools should reopen or stay virtual remains split in Pennsylvania.
In a non-scientific poll of nearly 11,000 Pennsylvanians conducted this week by Patch, about 43 percent of respondents said students should “absolutely not” return for in-person learning this fall. But 39 percent had the opposing opinion, saying students “definitely” should. About 18 percent of respondents were unsure. See the full poll results here.
Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, speaking Thursday during a conference call with reporters, acknowledged there is no “one size fits all” approach to reopening schools during a pandemic.
MORE: PA Issues Updated School Reopening Guidance
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This article originally appeared on the Newtown Patch