Dear Shamokin Area School District Families:
Earlier today, Governor Wolf and other state leaders announced an Order signed by Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health requiring face coverings to be worn in all school entities, including school districts, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers, intermediate units, and early learning and other child care settings, effective Tuesday, September 7, 2021. This statewide Order reflects the current statewide data—all 67 counties are reporting high or substantial rates of community transmission of COVID-19—and the fact that our young people represent the largest remaining segment of our population that is unvaccinated, and therefore unprotected from an infectious disease variant that is aggressively spreading.
This Order will help maximize the chances for regular school operations and minimize student and staff quarantines, as the school year gets underway. The Order also acknowledges that face covering requirements can’t go on forever. The State Administration will continue to evaluate community transmission rates, vaccination data, and other indicators, and will provide a comprehensive update to the education community by October 1, 2021, to inform decisions about the Order’s statewide application going ahead.
To ensure as much consistency as possible, local implementation of the Order will reflect many of the standards that were in place throughout much of the 2020-21 school year, including a series of accommodations and exceptions detailed within the Order. Answers to FAQs are also available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website. In a change from the 2020 Order and recognizing a steady accrual of evidence around disease transmission, face coverings are not required outdoors.
We continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students, families, faculty, and staff. We appreciate and acknowledge the many questions and concerns regarding mask mandates in schools. Based on our current experience with Covid-19 in our own schools, masking is an important step to comply with quarantine guidelines and keep our kids in-person 5 days a week. We are grateful for the support of our community last year in managing through the pandemic and we look forward to working with you as we navigate our new set of challenges with the delta variant.
Chris J. Venna