PA Orders Regarding Rolling Positive Cases/Closures, Other Requirements
December 11, 2020
Dear Radnor Families and Staff:
In my last correspondence, we shared the criteria Radnor is using to make decisions about our learning phases. The criteria is:
- Our experience in hybrid. We continue to monitor our positive cases and rates of transmission.
- Rates of community spread and guidance from the Chester County Health Department.
- Our ability to staff our buildings and classrooms.
Now, we have additional criteria that was clarified this week. The PA Department of Health (PA DOH) has ordered all public school districts that choose to offer an in-person option to comply with new rules concerning face coverings and compulsory school closing directives that depend on school-specific Covid-19 data. Also, the Governor provided additional orders yesterday, December 10, suspending all in-person extracurricular and school athletics in grades K-12 beginning this Saturday, December 12, through Sunday, January 3. Click here for these new orders from the Governor.
How Do These Requirements Impact Radnor?
- Face Coverings: The PA DOH order regarding face coverings is already in place at Radnor. Our Health and Safety Plan (click here) requires all students, staff, and athletes to wear a face covering when indoors, irrespective of physical distance.
- Compulsory School Closings: We are now required to shift to all virtual instruction when a school reaches a certain number of positive Covid-19 cases over a 14-day period based on the size of the school’s population (see chart below). Once in virtual, the school must conduct cleaning and contact tracing before it can reopen for in-person instruction.
- K-12 Athletics and Extracurricular Activities: All in-person athletics and extracurricular activities are paused beginning this Saturday, December 12, through Sunday, January 3.
We are required to follow all the above orders. While the third item applies to all public and private schools, the compulsory school closing order applies to only public schools in the Commonwealth.
Explanation of Compulsory School Closing Order from PA DOH
Each public school in the state must track daily positive cases of Covid-19 based on those students attending or present in our schools. School closing data is based on the total population of each building and tracked over a rolling 14-day period.
While PA DOH allows for shorter closures based on the three items above, public schools are required to close for at least one day and consult with the local health department about the length of closure. After being closed for at least one day, the 14-day rolling count for that specific school building is reset back to zero.
Unfortunately, this new order provides us little flexibility and does not acknowledge the extensive nature of our current mitigation protocols:
- For example, we don’t need several days to clean our buildings. Since the start of the school year, we have been cleaning and disinfecting our buildings daily. We have hired additional staff and developed extensive cleaning protocols that don’t require closing. We have also been able to complete contact tracing within hours of a positive case because we hired additional nurses in each of our buildings.
- Our current Covid-19 positive dashboard (click here) tracks all positive student and staff cases that are shared with us or identified through school. For the new 14-day rolling average order, we only need to track those cases that are present in our building. Previously, if a student was absent the week before Thanksgiving, and then learned he/she was Covid-19 positive on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and never came into school, we added that case to our positive case dashboard. Now with the new requirements, since the student did not set foot in our building during the infectious period, the positive case would not count toward our 14-day rolling average that determines whether we are required to close. Reported positive cases for students who are in remote learning or virtual learning DO NOT count as part of the 14-day rolling average that determines a school’s numbers for closure, unless the students are coming in for athletics or activities at the end of the day.
- Additionally, when a school hits the threshold to close, we may have very little time to provide families and staff with notice.
We understand these new requirements are confusing and encourage all families to review the information provided by PA DOH and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) as well as the Covid-19 dashboards. We have provided links to these additional resources below.
- Information from PA DOH here and PDE here
- Covid-19 dashboard for Radnor Township and Delaware County here
- Covid-19 dashboard for positive cases reported in RTSD schools and buildings here
This remains a very challenging time for all of us. As always, thank you for your cooperation and support as we navigate the next phase of this pandemic. (I can’t believe how many phases this pandemic has!)
Kenneth E. Batchelor
Superintendent of Schools