SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Somerset Area School District announced Thursday an extension of their remote learning until January 12, 2021.
In a letter to students, parents and guardians, the school district cites multiple reasons for the extension that include ten recent positive COVID-19 cases within the district, increasing numbers of quarantined employees and students, high community spread within the county, and new orders from the Department of Health.
With Somerset County in its third week of substantial community spread, the Department of Health and Education has strongly recommended full-remote learning according to the announcement.
While Administration officials in Harrisburg may lead you to believe this is a local decision, the unplanned and unexpected extension of remote learning in SASD is also the result of new orders issued by Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, under the authority of Governor Wolf. These orders have changed conditions for the operation of Pennsylvania’s public schools during the pandemic in several ways.
The first order states that face shields are no longer considered acceptable face coverings. Many of our students and faculty have relied upon the face shields the District has provided and strongly prefer them to masks. Unfortunately, with the new orders, face shields are no longer an option.
The second order requires Districts to attest to guaranteeing that 100% of its students, employees, bus drivers, service providers, and guests will wear face-coverings properly and will remain at least six feet apart—ALWAYS. As you can imagine, making a guarantee that relies on the perfect compliance of 2100 students, 300 employees, and over 100 service providers is not even remotely realistic.
While the District’s Administration and Board of Directors say they are taking the matter seriously, the move to full-remote learning has been quote “nothing short of heart-wrenching and is NOT what any of us wanted.”
“As we have stated before, we know that the BEST place for students to learn is in our classrooms with our skilled and dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals”, said Somerset Area School District Superintendent Mrs. Krista S. Mathias. “As parents ourselves, we know the enormously difficult challenges the pandemic and the related State orders have presented to families. That being stated, as our Golden Eagles and their families know, we are ready and able to provide the best remote learning experience possible.”
The school district plans to re-evaluate the county’s status regarding the spread of COVID-19 and any possible new orders presented in early January.