Important Health & Safety Update for 2021-22

July 1, 2021
 
Dear PRSD Students, Staff and Parents,
 
As part of funding requirements connected to COVID-19, school districts must submit a new board-approved health and safety plan for the 2021 – 2022 school year to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This time element requires us to share our best thinking now (early July) as we consider an approach for the start of the next year (end of August). While it is challenging to forecast two months ahead, we will share a clear plan and rationale.
 
Recommendation:
At this time and given the key points that follow, we are planning a return for the 2021 – 2022 school year in a largely traditional manner. We will continue mitigation practices, such as cleaning, sanitizing, physical distancing to the extent possible without altering program design or delivery, individual wellness checks managed at home (e.g., attention to symptoms). Barring a broader mandate, we will recommend masking of unvaccinated individuals but not require/mandate masking. This recommendation is set for board approval at the next meeting in early July.
Key Points:
  • The Pennsylvania mask mandate was lifted on June 28th. While recommendations from governmental and/or public health agencies may exist for unvaccinated individuals, it is likely that they will remain recommendations – not mandates – unless there is a significant change to conditions or cases in the future (i.e., worsening).
  • The amount of virus in the community is reflected through conditions and cases. At a county level, the incidence rate is now less than 5 per 100,000 with a positivity rate at 1%. Over the past month, we have also been specifically monitoring the Allegheny Alerts to view levels and trends in the 5 – 12 age range. These data reinforce the low levels within that group.
  • For the most vulnerable populations and those 12 and older, vaccines are widely available in our country and region. In addition, Pfizer-BioNTech is in Phase 2/3 trials for 5 – 11-year-olds (and younger). Those vaccines have a lower dose of the active ingredients. If efficacy and safety outcomes continue, it appears that the potential for Emergency Use Authorization for 5 – 11-year-olds could be possible by September.
  • We do know that there are some children in the 5 – 11 age group with individual medical concerns that may require special accommodations and planning on a case-by-case basis. 
  • Per current public health guidance, it is likely that quarantine requirements will continue in the fall for close contacts to a confirmed positive individual case. Vaccinated individuals – of any age – do not need to quarantine if they remain asymptomatic. It will be helpful if school nurses know who has been vaccinated since it will impact contact tracing. Given individual privacy considerations, we will encourage staff and families to voluntarily share vaccination status with the school nurses.
We will continue to monitor the amount of virus in the region through incidence rate and positivity rate. We continue to consult with the Healthcare Leadership Council subject-matter experts. We will also continue to consult with the Allegheny County Health Department.
 
Respectfully,
Pine-Richland School District