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HARRISBURG, PA (August 10, 2020) — PSEA President Rich Askey today released the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement about recommended, science-based metrics Pennsylvania schools should use to determine whether they should reopen for in-person instruction.
Askey urged all Pennsylvania schools to follow the new guidance and continued to emphasize the need for clear school reopening rules from the commonwealth, as opposed to recommendations that are not consistently enforceable statewide.
“These new reopening measures are guidance for our schools, and I strongly encourage all schools in Pennsylvania to follow them,” Askey said. “Doing so will ensure that Pennsylvania’s students, staff, and families stay safe, that we slow the spread of the virus, and that we know schools will be safe places to learn and work when the virus is under control.
“We’re grateful for the governor’s leadership and appreciate his commitment to keeping Pennsylvania’s students, educators, support professionals, and their families safe. His announcement today provides a clear pathway for school leaders who are struggling to decide whether it’s safe to reopen schools for in-person instruction.”
Askey added that it is clear from the state Departments of Health and Education directives that students and teachers must wear masks, unless there is documentation that they fall under an exception. However, the state must still issue clear, enforceable statewide directives that everyone in schools must maintain 6 feet of social distance if schools still decide to open for in-person instruction.
Askey also emphasized that educators, school nurses, and support professionals should always be a part of reopening planning for the schools where they work.
“State government has issued helpful guidance on a number of health and safety issues that schools can use to guide their reopening plans,” Askey said. “But we still need state directives that make it absolutely clear that, in addition to wearing a mask, everyone must maintain 6 feet of social distance and when a school should close if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.
“If we want to open our schools for in-person instruction, we all need to do our part. If everyone wears a mask, keeps 6 feet apart, and washes their hands, we’ll be one step closer to getting our students back into their classrooms.
“The governor’s announcement today is a significant step forward, but state government still needs to answer some questions that school districts can’t answer themselves. We’re educators, not doctors. So, we need state experts to tell us how best to keep our students, staff, and families safe.”
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 180,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.