January 11, 2021
Dear Shaler Area families,
We thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this school year together. We know this school year has been difficult for everyone. While many of the challenges we faced in 2020 do not immediately disappear with the start of a new year, we are hopeful that 2021 will be brighter for all of us.
Transition to Hybrid Instruction
As announced last week, we will return to hybrid instruction on Tuesday, January 19, for Cohort A and Thursday, January 21, 2021 for Cohort B. Monday, January 18, is an in-service day for teachers, and there will be no school for students. As we transition to the hybrid instruction model next week, we want to ensure the health and safety of all of our students and staff. Please note that there have been several changes to the health and safety guidelines and requirements, which are outlined in this communication.
All students will remain in their assigned cohorts when the district transitions back to hybrid instruction next week. Students in Cohort A and Cohort B have the option to enroll in Cohort C, the 100% virtual option. Alternatively, students previously in Cohort C have the option to enroll in their assigned Cohort A or Cohort B. To request a change to your student’s cohort, please contact your school’s main office before January 15.
Bus assignments for students who did not opt out of district transportation will remain unchanged. To view your student’s bus assignment, log in to your Infinite Campus account, click “More” on the left-hand side menu, and then click “Transportation.” The information is accurate based on the latest Cohort report. If you have a concern your student’s bus schedule may be incorrect, please contact our district Transportation Department at [email protected].
Attestation Ensuring Implementation of Mitigation Efforts
In November, the state Secretary of Health issued a new order requiring public schools in counties with substantial community transmission to attest to health and safety protocols. As a district, we have signed the Attestation Ensuring Implementation of Mitigation Efforts form declaring that while students are receiving in-person instruction in our district, we will comply with the Department of Health’s Universal Face Coverings Order updated November 18, 2020, and will follow the department’s Recommendations for Pre-K to 12 Schools Following Identification of a Case(s) of COVID-19. The form will be posted on the district’s Back to School webpage later this week.
Guidelines for COVID-19 Cases in School
The state Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Education (PDE) recommend a Full Remote Learning Model for all schools in counties with substantial level of community transmission. Allegheny County is currently experiencing a substantial level of community transmission. Since Shaler Area is electing to pursue in-person instruction while the county is experiencing substantial community transmission, the district must follow the recommendations to close individual school buildings that experience a certain number of positive COVID-19 cases within a rolling 14-day period. The number of positive COVID-19 cases that will trigger a school closure is based on the size of the school. A summary of these recommendations is included below.
Recommendations for School Buildings Following Identification of a Case(s) of COVID-19 during Substantial Level of Community Transmission in the County
* If case investigations, contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfecting can be accomplished in a faster time frame, the length of closure time may be shortened.
** In all cases during substantial community transmission, schools should consider altering the schedule to significantly decrease the number of students on site, and public health staff will direct close contacts to quarantine.
For a full chart outlining the DOH and PDE recommendations, please visit this PDE webpage.
In order to increase transparency and to help the district community anticipate the need for a possible school closure due to COVID-19, we have created a webpage, which will include a dashboard, to provide a visual way to track the positive COVID-19 cases in each school building over a 14-day period: https://www.sasd.k12.pa.us/COVID-19Dashboard.aspx. If a school experiences a positive COVID-19 case, we will continue to send an email to all families and staff members of the affected building.
Face Covering Requirements
In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, all students and staff must wear face coverings in accordance with the state Department of Health’s Universal Face Coverings Order updated November 18, 2020.
Face coverings can only be removed when:
Eating or drinking when spaced at least 6 feet apart; or
When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task; or
At least 6 feet apart during “face-covering breaks” to last no longer than 10 minutes.
Daily Symptom Screening
As a reminder, parents/guardians are required to complete a daily symptom screening of their student(s) before sending them to school.
Your student must stay at home, if the they:
Have one or more symptoms in Group A OR
Have two or more symptoms in Group B OR
Are taking fever reducing medication. (i.e. Advil, Motrin) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Please watch this video from our school nurses about what to look for, https://youtu.be/iinrIXTHLtY, and post this checklist on your refrigerator or close to your door as a reminder. If your student experiences any of these symptoms during the school day, they will be evaluated by the school nurse and may be sent home.
Updated Travel Restrictions and Requirements
Please note the updated travel requirements issued by the state Department of Health. Most notable are the following changes:
All travelers over age 11 entering Pennsylvania from locations outside the Commonwealth, including Pennsylvanians who are returning home from outside the Commonwealth, must produce evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or place themselves in quarantine for 10 days without testing or a 7-day quarantine with a negative test on after day 5 of quarantine.
This does NOT apply to individuals who are returning to the Commonwealth after traveling outside the Commonwealth for less than 24 hours, individuals traveling to and from the Commonwealth for medical reasons, or individuals traveling to comply with a court order, such as child custody.
Contacting Your School Nurse
It is important to communicate with your student’s school nurse in order for the school district to provide the safest learning environment possible for our returning students and staff and to comply with state requirements. Please contact your student’s school nurse via phone or email immediately if any of the following apply:
You plan to travel outside of Pennsylvania for any reason.
Your student or any member of your household tests positive for COVID-19.
Your student has been in close contact with a confirmed or presumed positive COVID-19 case.
Your student is currently quarantined or isolated due to a recent exposure outside of school or due to travel.
We recognize that you may have questions about the district’s transition back to the hybrid model. To help answer specific questions related to our return to hybrid, we will host two virtual Q&A sessions for families next week. There will be two ways to participate in the Q&A sessions. If you wish to ask questions, please join the session virtually during one of the dates and times listed below.
If you only wish to view the Q&A session, you can watch the livestream on the district’s YouTube channel. The meeting link will appear when the livestream begins. A recording of the Q&A sessions also will be available on the channel for any family unable to participate at the scheduled time.
We thank you in advance for your support in our commitment to providing a safe learning environment for all of our students and staff. We are looking forward to welcoming your students back into our buildings next week.
Sean C. Aiken
Superintendent of Schools
Bryan E. O’Black, Ed.D.