NORRISTOWN — Masking, testing, vaccination and increased funding.
Those were the four steps Governor Tom Wolf outlined as the four steps the state is taking to protect students, reduce the need for disruptive quarantines and keep students in the classrooms. The announcement was made while he was visiting teachers and students at Hancock Elementary School in the Norristown Area School District on Wednesday.
“Back to school is an exciting time as many of our teachers and students return to the classroom full-time,” said Gov. Wolf. “Our goal this year is not just to start the year with kids in school, but to keep them in school all year long. Research shows that learning in a classroom is important because many students learn better in a classroom.
“But being in school is just as important for the social, emotional and physical well-being of young students. Our kids want to see their friends again, they want to play sports and participate in the activities that help them build skills and connect to their peers. That’s why we want to keep kids in school this year.”
With the goal of keeping kids in the classroom and COVID-19 out, the governor described four key resources help schools and protect communities:
- Requiring masks to be worn inside K-12 school buildings, early learning programs and child care providers starting Sept. 7 through an Order signed by acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam. The order reduces the risk that entire classrooms will need to quarantine, which means fewer disruptions to students. The order was praised by medical and education experts across the state. A series of answers to frequently asked questions about the order is online.
- Requiring vaccine providers to coordinate vaccine clinics with schools and institutions of higher education through an order by the acting Secretary of Health. Vaccine providers are expected to make every effort to coordinate a vaccine clinic for the employees, contractors, volunteers, students or students’ families of the school, at the request of schools.
- Free, weekly COVID-19 testing for participating K-12 schools through a partnership with Ginkgo. The pooled testing initiative will help to identify and prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the schools.
- $4.9 billion in one-time funding for safe schools through the federal American Rescue Plan, which school districts can use to support the long-term work of education recovery and provide safe environments for students and school staff.
“After an unprecedented school year with only being able to offer virtual and hybrid learning, NASD is proud to offer full, in-person instruction five days per week while continuing to keep health and safety a priority and commitment for all students, staff, families, and community,” said Superintendent Christopher Dormer. “We are appreciative of the governor’s actions to protect all Pennsylvanians and ensure school districts are equipped to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition to a layered approach to protecting schools from the pandemic, the Wolf administration is investing in quality education with a $416 million increase in the budget, the largest state funding increase in education in Pennsylvania history.
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