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State releases guidelines to re-open schools

Elementary and secondary schools in the state's yellow and green phases may resume in-person instruction and activities on July 1st

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Elementary and secondary schools in the state's yellow and green phases may resume in-person instruction and activities on July 1st. It's part of the guidelines released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The question remains: what will it look like?

"To this point, every decision we've made at PDE, and what this guidance will show, are decisions that allow us to create the conditions and to make recommendations that will first and foremost keep students and staff safe and health," Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, said.

Rivera said schools need to develop health and safety plans, which must be approved by local boards of directors and posted on the district's website before it can re-open. Those plans, which must consider best cleaning and sanitizing practices, proper ventilation and hygiene, and individuals who are considered high risk, must also be submitted to the Department of Education.

"Although there are required elements within each plan, there is flexibility that allows school leaders and their stakeholders to operationalize practices at the local level," Matt Stem, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, said.

FOX43 had questions: Will there be a hybrid of in-person and online classes? Will a certain number of students be permitted in one classroom? What about masks? And what happens if there is a second wave?

All of the answer remain unclear. Rivera said, however, that each individual school must address these items in their plans and that social distancing guidelines must be met.

"Our strategy, that can be employed if you go full in-person, to some hybrid event, to ya know fully going off-line and virtual," Rivera said. "So the plans will be flexible. But every strategy we've invested in to date is a strategy that can be utilized in every different modality of instructional delivery."

The Department of Education has also released separate, yet similar guidance that allows post-secondary institutions, like colleges, to begin in-person effective June 5th.

This Friday the Department said it will be releasing a guidance template for schools to use if they wish, to ensure they are meeting the new requirements.