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Leaders call for better guidance in reopening schools

As discussion continue on how to safely reopen schools, questions remain regarding the guidance from the state leaders, or as some believe, lack of

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — As discussions continue on how to safely reopen schools, questions remain regarding the guidance from the state leaders, or as some believe, lack of. This, after the Department of Education refused to schedule an interview with FOX43, and continues to dodge our questions.

Some school officials say many students will face challenges this upcoming school year, especially kids who have disabilities and need individualized education plans.

It's a story we been following for several weeks.

After talking to several school leaders and an attorney, we learned that some people feel the Department of Education isn't doing enough to help prepare schools, and that the guidance it has given has been too lax and vague.

FOX43 wanted the Department of Ed's response.Since that story aired, we have asked repeatedly for an interview and even supplied them with a list of questions about reopening. No dice.

Officials told us in a two-week time span they could not make time for a 15-minute interview.

They did however send us this statement:

"Since the beginning of June the Department of Education has offered several guidance documents and resources to school leaders as they prepare for the safe reopening of schools for in-person instruction. The Department has also encouraged LEAs to engage with their local stakeholders to craft their Health and Safety Plans for returning to school and that those plans should have contingencies to transition to remote-only instruction should it be required. An LEA’s Health and Safety Plan must be approved by its governing body prior to resuming in-person instruction.

Most recently, the governor and health secretary have also issued orders about wearing masks and targeted mitigation efforts which are important for all Pennsylvanians to follow as we work together to fight the spread of this virus."

Next we turned to the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators to see what it thought of the guidance.

"There are many questions at the operational level of schools that need to be answered," Executive Director Mark DiRocco, said.

DiRocco said school administrators and board members shouldn't be making some of the decisions they've been given the flexibility and freedom to make, and that the Department of Health, not Department of Ed, needs to step up in making hard rules.

"For example, lets talk about the social distancing," DiRocco said. "The guideline is 6 feet apart to the greatest extent feasible. What does that mean? Is 5 feet okay? Is 4 1/2 feet okay? We believe the Department of Health should step in and say, 'here is the ruling on that.'"

PASA has made it clear, it has not made a stance or recommendation on the reopening of school. 

"What we're saying is we need more advice to make those decisions," DiRocca said.

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