Two Lancaster County school districts announced this week that they plan to resume in-person instruction, but it won’t be business as usual.
Lampeter-Strasburg and Penn Manor school districts plan to reopen in late August with social distancing practices in place, revamped cleaning protocols and mask-wearing among students and employees.
The L-S school board approved its state-mandated health and safety plan Monday night, while Penn Manor’s school board is expected to vote on the district’s plan July 13.
Other county schools, including Manheim Township and Warwick, have announced they intend to approve their plans this month. Several school districts have developed surveys and community forums for families to weigh in before making a final decision.
The reopening plans outline how the district will keep students and employees safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has surged in parts of the state and country in recent weeks. Every Pennsylvania school district must approve its plan by the time it starts the 2020-21 school year, according state Department of Education reopening guidelines.
“It is our full intention to physically return students to school buildings in the fall in a safe manner,” Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter said in an email to parents Tuesday.
“While the school board has not yet approved the plan,” Leichliter said, “it includes social distancing practices, health screenings, reduced student movement through buildings, enhanced cleaning protocols with green products, and other measures recommended by health professionals for safely resuming in-person teaching.”
The district’s virtual program — which, pending board approval, is expanding from grades seven through 12 to kindergarten through 12th grade this fall — is available for students whose parents don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school.
Lampeter-Strasburg’s plan includes upgraded cleaning and sanitizing standards throughout the school day, strict visitor guidelines, training for employees and education for students on good hygiene practices and how to spot symptoms.
Face masks will be “strongly encouraged, but not required,” especially on school buses and in other situations where social distancing may not be feasible, according to the plan.
“It is acknowledged that some students and staff members may choose to regularly wear face coverings,” the plan states. “This is a personal choice and will be strongly encouraged and supported, but not required.”
Recess, hallway traffic, classroom sizes and layouts, and cafeteria seating will be evaluated, the plan reads. Parents are supposed to screen their kids before coming to school, and employees are expected to screen themselves prior to leaving for work.
In a letter to parents, district Superintendent Kevin Peart said the plan is “very broad in nature,” and the district will develop specific, building-level procedures.