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Montgomery emphasizes return to 5-days, in-person schooling

MONTGOMERY — Students in the Montgomery Area School District will be returning in the fall five-days a week for in-person instruction without face coverings, Daphne Bowers, superintendent, announced at a recent school board meeting.

“We will follow all mandates as they come down from the Department of Health and the Department of Education,” she said.

“When a mandate is given to us we will follow it. Until a mandate is given to us, we will allow our students to not wear face coverings,” she added.

Bowers noted that there is a mandate that still stands which requires students to wear face coverings on school buses. Students will be allowed to remove masks when they arrive at school.

Montgomery’s 2021-22 Health and Safety Plan specifies that students, staff and visitors are permitted to wear a face covering, as recommended by the CDC, DOH or PDE, but “they will not be required to do so,” unless there is a direct order requiring it from those departments.

In reference to vaccinations, the plan stated that the district is a designated Point of Distribution site and “will participate in any activation of this site by the PA Department of Health for the purpose of mass vaccinations.”

The district has pledged to continue to work with local health agencies to offer opportunities for vaccinations and will help to publicize those opportunities in the community.

Throughout the plan as presented to the board, the district agreed to follow guidelines and recommendations as they relate to requirements set out by PDE for schools receiving American Recovery Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.

For physical distancing, the district has agreed to follow CDC, DOH and PDE guidelines and recommendations “regarding student movement throughout the buildings to the greatest extent possible.”

These include socially distancing students to the “greatest extent possible,” planning all group activities in accordance with guidelines as much as possible, limiting visitors and opting to hold meetings virtually if there is an increase in the infection rate.

The only question from the public about the plan related to parents being allowed to volunteer in the classrooms and on field trips.

“To begin the school year, no, we’ll be following the same guidelines with screening. You will be able to come in with contacting the office and screened, but we will not be allowing volunteers,” Bowers said.

“That will also be for open house as well. We’ll go with a virtual open house to start,” she added.

Contact tracing will also be a part of the screening. Records of people that enter school buildings, other than students and staff, will be documented, as well as their reason for being there, the location where they visit and the names and close contacts that they visit in the building.

The district will refer to CDC and DOH guidelines if any student, staff or educator is diagnosed with COVID-19 and parents and families will be prepared for remote learning is a class or school is temporarily dismissed, according to the plan.

Under the plan those not fully vaccinated will quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and any close contacts who test positive for COVID-19 or who have symptoms will isolate regardless of vaccination status.

Guidelines from the last school year for diagnostic and screening testing remain in place as student and parents or guardians are required to perform symptom screening prior to arriving at school or at the bus stop each day according to the new health and safety plan. All district staff will perform a symptom screening before coming to work.

As part of the plan the district will continue to teach and reinforce good hygiene measures and will follow CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting schools and frequently touched surfaces and objects.

“As far as social distancing, hand washing, cleaning the building — that will all continue as we did last year,” Bowers said. “We will do everything in our abilities to keep our children safe.”

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