Pennsylvania Department of Education officials have recommended that schools move to online-only teaching because the county is now in its second week of “substantial” rates of covid-19 infection.
The threshold for being identified at the “substantial” level according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health is having an incident rate at or over 100, or a positive rate at or greater than 10%.
Bucks currently has a 221.4 infection rate per 100,000 residents, up from 106.7 last week, and a 9.5% positivity rate, up from 6.2% last week.
But the Bucks County Department of Health (BCDOH) on Nov. 11 “unconditionally recommended” that school districts not stop in-person learning.
“The current data indicates that, because of our strong school health and safety plans, children and teachers are safe in our schools, even when there are many cases in the community,” BCDOH told school districts. “All studies indicate that in-person learning is the best model for effective learning – our schools have proven to be a safe and structured environment where this can occur.”
Because of the wide gap between recommendations from county and state officials, New Hope-Solebury School District (NHSSD) is having to make its own decisions on what’s best for students, teachers and the community. The district is holding steady for now on giving students a choice between in-person and remote learning, but that could change at any time.
“Unfortunately, there continue to be differences of opinion within the health community in the action schools should take regarding the increase of infections, making decisions about closing schools more challenging,” observed New Hope-Solebury Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles W. Lentz in a letter to parents Monday. “We are continuing to review our instructional plans considering the current data to determine if any changes are needed.”
Further complicating matters is the decision to close schools from Nov. 23 to Dec. 6 in Montgomery County, where a substantial number of NHSSD teachers and staff reside.
“We will continue to monitor this situation and will reassess if there is a rise in cases in our school district or community at large and will discuss this matter at the Board meeting this Thursday evening,” said Lentz.
Cases of covid in New Hope Borough remain at less than 10, but the number of Solebury Township cases moved up to 11 in recent days.
A new study conducted by The Washington Post examining some 10,000 school districts across the country found essentially no connection between covid-19 case rates and decisions regarding schools. Rather, politics is shaping the decisions, according to the The Post.
“The two main factors that determined whether a school district opened in-person were the level of support in the district for Donald Trump in 2016 and the strength of teachers’ unions,” the Post said.