Dear UCF Community,
I hope that this email finds you healthy and recharged after the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Given the approval and broad availability of a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, legal activity around masking in Pennsylvania, and the news of a new COVID variant - I want to take a moment to bring you up to speed on our Health and Safety Plan and future plans to review and update our mitigation efforts.
There have been lawsuits regarding Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health’s Order requiring face coverings in schools. Here is an overview:
- The Commonwealth Court ruled that the Secretary of Health does not have the authority to issue a “mask order.”
- This ruling is currently being challenged by the PA Supreme Court (see FAQ below for further details).
- It is likely that the statewide face-covering requirement in schools will sunset as soon as December 4 and no later than January 17.
- Once this sunsets - masking becomes a local school district decision as part of the state-required Health and Safety Plan.
- Our existing Health and Safety Plan requires masking under specific conditions for specific age groups. This will be in effect when the statewide face-covering requirement in schools ends.
Our plan and timeline to review our Health and Safety Plan are as follows:
- On November 8 and 15 the School Board announced their intention to review the District’s Health and Safety Plan.
- The UCF Health and Safety Task Force will meet in December to review our current plan (see FAQs for additional information on the Task Force), evaluate current conditions, and consider any updated guidance from the CDC, PA Dept of Health, and the Chester County Health Department.
- A Community Conversation will be held on January 4 to allow for public participation, input, and discussion related to our Health and Safety Plan. More information on this will be forthcoming.
- A survey will be sent to parents, students, and staff - between January 5 and 9 - seeking further input.
- The Board will discuss our Health and Safety plan during their Work Session on January 10.
- The Board will discuss and potentially vote on revisions to the Health and Safety plan at the Board Meeting on January 24.
A busy fall will be turning into quite a busy winter. We appreciate your support during this time as we strive to make decisions that are best for our students and staff. We hope that you will join us at our Community Conversation on January 4 and participate in the survey!
Can you provide additional information about the masking lawsuits?
On November 16, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued a ruling that voids the Masking Order for schools in Pennsylvania on December 4. Governor Wolf has filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court - this appeal is pending.
Prior to the Commonwealth Court’s ruling, Governor Wolf outlined his plan to expire the masking order on January 17, 2022, giving school districts back the responsibility for implementing masking policies at the local level.
As the appellate process plays out, the masking order for schools announced on August 31 by the acting Secretary of the PA Department of Health is currently still in force. This means all students, staff and visitors are still required to wear a mask while in our schools.
These are some news articles related to the ongoing legal proceedings:
news/education/2021/11/14/ masks-COVID-19-Pittsburgh- school-boards-Gov-Tom-Wolf/ stories/202111140072
pennsylvania-school-mask- mandate-attorney-general- emergency-petition/38332414
coronavirus-pandemic-health- pennsylvania-tom-wolf- 75eb2eed7db1898f920d29900f2379 60
2021/11/penn-philadelphia- pennsylvania-school-mask- mandate
What happens when the mask order is lifted - do we need to continue to mask?
Because we are currently at a high transmission level - yes. When the PA DOH Mask Order sunsets all school districts revert back to their Health and Safety Plan. The UCF plan was approved in August. The masking component of the plan is as follows:
Do school districts have the authority to require masks?
The answer is clearly yes. The PA School Code vests School Boards with broad discretion to issue rules and regulations to govern district affairs - the state-required Health and Safety Plan clearly falls within the Board’s prerogative. Additionally - members of the PA General Assembly - especially Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) have made it clear that any decision on masking should be made by local School Boards.
If we stop masking - what happens to quarantines for close contacts?
The CCHD rules around quarantining remain the same - https://drive.google.com/file/
For students who are close contacts and who are unvaccinated and unmasked - a 14-day quarantine is required. It is worth noting that masking has prevented approximately 2,600 days of quarantine from school for UCF students.
Who is on the Health and Safety Plan Task Force?
The Task Force has a varied membership that includes a variety of perspectives. Members include parents, students, staff, administration, and Board members. These members represent all six schools and all perspectives as it comes to mitigation efforts.
How are the vaccine clinics going?
On November 3, the CDC approved the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. To help provide opportunities for our youngest learners to get vaccinated, we hosted five clinics where a total of 700 vaccines were administered to our students.
Will masking still be required once the Mask Order Sunsets?
Upon expiration of the order, the District will follow the masking guidelines as outlined in our Health and Safety Plan.
Will the Board and administration take into account the perspectives of parents, staff, and the community?
Yes - in many and varied ways.
The Task Force has a membership that includes a variety of perspectives. Members include parents, students, staff, administration, and Board members. These members represent all six schools and all perspectives as it comes to mitigation efforts.
Additionally, there will be a Community Conversation on January 4 and a survey to our community in January.
We will take the feedback from the Health and Safety Task Force, the Community Conversation, and survey results into consideration when considering changes to the Health and Safety Plan. Any changes to the Health and Safety Plan will be voted on during the January 24 School Board meeting.
Can you tell me more about the Community Conversation?
We will be hosting a Community Conversation on January 4 to gather community feedback on our Health and Safety Plan. This will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to engage in the process and offer input. We will share more details on our Community Conversation shortly.
Have any decisions been made regarding revisions to our health and safety plan?
No decisions on masking or any other changes to the Health and Safety Plan will be made prior to the January 24 School Board Meeting.
Why review our plan now - it seems to be working well and keeping our students and staff safe?
Because we accept Federal funds, we are required to review our Health and Safety Plan every six months. This upcoming review is timely as most of our elementary students who are receiving the vaccine won’t be fully vaccinated until early to mid-January. It also allows us to get through the holidays when many of our families are traveling. It also aligns with the plans to sunset the masking order on January 17. And most importantly, it allows time to coordinate a community conversation and survey to thoughtfully engage with our families on our Health and Safety Plan.
Can I look at the current Health and Safety Plan?
Yes - here is the link - Health and Safety Plan.
How does the omicron variant impact our Health and Safety Plan?
On November 26 the CDC released the following statement on the omicron variant - https://www.cdc.gov/media/
We will continue to stay abreast of conditions and how they may impact student and staff safety.