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State officials update guidance to encourage in-person learning for elementary schools


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    HARRISBURG, Pa. (WPMT ) — The Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education updated their school learning model guidance to encourage elementary schools to return to full-in person learning, or hybrid learning later this month.

“Schools are going to be encouraged to allow for elementary school students to return back to campus,” said Dept. of Education Acting Secretary Noe Ortega.

Starting January 25th, the updated guidance gives school districts the opportunity to allow elementary schools to remain under full in-person learning, even in counties with substantial community spread. Previous guidance recommended online only learning.

“Educators and families recognize that students benefit from being physically in their classroom,” said Ortega. “While this is not mandatory, it is up to school leaders to make a decision on whether or not local factors permit them to return to in person instruction.”

The change comes after emerging research on COVID-19 and children. Dept. of Health Sec. Dr. Rachel Levine says, children younger than 14 have a lower change of COVID-19 infection. She also says, children are more likely to get the virus during afterschool activities rather than in-person learning.

That’s why she’s continuing to encourage Pennsylvanians to follow all mitigation efforts in place like, hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing.

“A critical point to remember is we all play a part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and the number of cases we’re going to see among children in schools very much depends on that community spread, so each of us have a part to play,” said Dr. Levine.

This updated guidance only applies to elementary schools, not middle or high schools.

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