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Bucks County officials propose guidelines for public schools to reopen

Bucks County Health Department Director Dr. David Damsker on Monday provided guidelines for the county’s 13 school districts to implement “a safe, and reasonably normal” reopening of their schools this fall for in-person instruction.

The guidelines, part of a state-mandated process in which each school district must enact its own health and safety plan before reopening, were laid out in a three-page letter sent today to the county’s public school administrators.

The letter recommends, for instance, that masks be required on buses and possibly in hallways, but not in classrooms. That a minimum distance of three feet be enforced for classroom seating. And that cafeteria seating be staggered, hallway traffic minimized, and handwashing strictly enforced, among other advisories.

Damsker’s letter notes that Bucks County has reduced its number of new COVID-19 infections to a low baseline with minimal levels of community spread. The county is expected to move into the least-restrictive “green” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan by June 26.

“While health and safety considerations are paramount, guidance also is rooted in our understanding and belief that social interaction and in-person instruction is essential to our children’s emotional well-being, as well as their educational growth and advancement,” Damsker wrote.

His letter stressed that the Bucks County Health Department will be adopting an approach that treats COVID-19 similarly to other contagious diseases found in schools, and allows classrooms, schools and district to remain open in the event of a confirmed case of the virus.

Among the recommended guidelines:

  • Parents and guardians must screen children for symptoms before school each day, as must district staff before leaving for work.
  • Mask-wearing will be allowed, but not required, in classrooms, but students and staff will be required to have a mask with them at all times in case one is needed.
  • Masks will be required aboard buses, where up to two students will be allowed to share a seat.
  • Staff not able to socially distance from students in class must wear a mask or face shield.
  • Three-foot distancing, as recommended by the World Health Organization, will suffice as the minimum for classroom seating, and classrooms will be configured to maximize social distancing.
  • Frequent hand-washing or sanitizing, and regular disinfection of high-touch surfaces will be required.
  • Ventilation in classrooms and common areas will be enhanced when possible.
  • High-traffic hallway use will be limited by staggering the end of classroom periods when feasible, and masks may be required if staggering is not feasible.
  • Cafeteria seating will be staggered, and possibly assigned, to enforce social distancing and assist contact tracing if necessary.
  • The Bucks County Health Department will take the lead on any contact tracing, isolation of ill students and staff, and other actions needed to contain infection and spread.

A full copy of the letter can be viewed here:

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  • First it would be wise to click on the link that is in blue at the bottom of the article to read the FULL copy of the letter sent out by the Bucks County Health Department. What is truly shocking is the 5th paragraph from the end wherein Dr. Damsker takes what I consider a blase attitude.
    Notice, he is talking about using strategies similar to those used with measles, pertussis and other infectious diseases.The problem with Dr. Damsker’s response is that these other diseases HAVE A VACCINE DUH. No vaccine yet for Corona.Hopefully this realization will give Dr. Damskera reality check.

  • You know, very often I find myself on the other side of issues from Melvin Band. And it’s not because he’s ill-informed or anything – he obviously reads a lot and is well informed on just about everything going on around here, we just have very different takes on a lot of issues.

    David Damsker and his buddies have me in full agreement with Mr. Band – these guidelines are completely incomplete, irresponsible, and in some parts a complete joke.

    Three feet of distance (what are we adding, an extra 18 inches to how they’re normally seated? Why bother?) and no masks required? Right at the time of year when all models are predicting a sharp uptick in community spread, with a virus that often doesn’t show symptoms for weeks and spreads silently.

    Luckily at least some of the school systems seem to be looking into making online classes an option for people not comfortable with returning. At least I know my granddaughter won’t be going back in person to be part of this experiment; her parents are already planning to switch to homeschooling if her school only offers in person in September.

    This is a long way from over.

  • I would just like to add, having young children sitting just three feet apart all day WITHOUT masks, WITHOUT having their temperatures checked upon entering school in rooms with windows closed in cold weather( no air circulation)is a recipe for disaster. All that is needed is just one uncovered sneeze or cough to start a chain reaction. And keeping young kids in their place all day- lot’s of luck on that.

  • I have a question for Dr. David Damsker of the Bucks County Department of Health. If a teacher calls in sick, goes to a doctor because he has what he thinks is the corona virus, gets tested and a few days later,( still home sick) is confirmed to have the virus, will the parents of this teacher’s class be informed by the school- the principal and/or the superintendent that their child’s teacher has the virus?And how quickly will they be informed?
    Is there any law that prevents the teacher from notifying the parents and also the contacts that he has had in the school ( other teachers and other students) for the prior two weeks before feeling sick which in a small school or district could be a multitude of people.
    Now as you know, since the corona virus is not just an ordinary virus. The sooner people are contacted that they or their children may have been exposed the better the outcome.

  • Ahhh, here we go. Everywhere else in the world that reopened schools and had success at keeping infections in check required much larger social distancing and students wearing masks at ALL times – classrooms, hallways, everywhere. Throughout Asia and Europe they’ve had great success with it.

    Undoubtably the decisions Bucks County are making are not based on best practices, but instead making huge concessions to avoid the oh-so-rebellious “muh liberties” crowd causing a ruckus.

    There is no other reason to not require masks in classrooms and hallways, but now Damsker and friends don’t need to worry about the conspiracy theorists acting like their rights have been trampled by taking simple safety measures for a limited time during a worldwide pandemic.

    Good luck, guinea pig school children of Pennsyltucky.

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