Community Updates: Keeping Our Schools Open

Message sent on November 19, 2021

Health & Safety Plan Update 
 
Good afternoon West Shore students, staff, and families,
 
With the potential lifting of the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health's mask Order approaching, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with some important information about an update made to our Health and Safety Plan for 2021-2022 at the Thursday, November 18, 2021 Board Meeting. 
 
Before you review our plans outlined below, I want to assure you we will continue to monitor and assess health information pertaining to COVID-19; requirements received from PDE, DOH, or any other regulatory agency; and information from local health care providers to guide our decision making. 
 
 
Keeping Our Schools Open

Masking as a Mitigation Effort
  • Since approval of the District’s Health & Safety Plan in July 2021, conditions have evolved that require further consideration of masking in schools, particularly in light of the mask Order issued by the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health and related legal challenges.
  • With approximately two months of daily COVID tracking data, we have greater insight into the conditions we have experienced in our schools, in a masked environment.
  • To date, we have been successful in keeping all schools open without whole school closures. 
  • In a few instances, following consultation with the DOH, we have moved individual classrooms to remote learning for short periods of time.
              
Throughout the discussion on masking, it has been established that school districts have the authority to require masking. 
  • Given the uncertainty around the current mask Order, it is imperative we define a set of metrics that would determine masking requirements and/or closures.
  • Based on the success of our mitigation efforts this school year in avoiding school closures, our efforts around a set of metrics will be primarily focused when to require a masked environment.
 
Will Masks Be Required?
While the mask Order issued by the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health is in effect…
  • Yes, masks will be required indoors as outlined in the order for all District schools.
While the CDC order is in effect for school transportation…
  • Yes, masks will be required on school buses and vans.
 
ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
After the mask Order issued by the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health is no longer in effect or in the absence of any other lawful requirement from an entity with legal authority…
 
  • Masks will be required by the District for all students and staff in grades K-5 through January 13, 2022. This will provide an additional two weeks for families who choose to do so, to have their child fully vaccinated. 
  • Effective January 14, 2022, masks will be a voluntary mitigation effort in grades K-5, unless case counts in each individual building reach the thresholds outlined by the District.
 
SECONDARY SCHOOLS
After the mask Order issued by the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health is no longer in effect or in the absence of any other lawful requirement from an entity with legal authority…
 
  • Masks will be required by the District for all students and staff in grades 6-12 through December 22, 2021.  High school students and approximately 75% of middle school students have been eligible for vaccination for several months.
  • Effective December 23, 2021, masks will be a voluntary mitigation effort in grades 6-12, unless case counts in each individual building reach the thresholds outlined by the District.
 
EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
After the mask Order issued by the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health is no longer in effect or in the absence of any other lawful requirement from an entity with legal authority…
 
  • Masks will not be required by the District for events or activities occurring outside normal school hours.
     
    This will include afterschool programming, sports, musicals, etc. at all grade levels, K-12.
 
District Masking Thresholds
The following thresholds are recommended based on the overall percentage of the school population and our experience since mid-September in regards to successfully mitigating the spread of COVID in our schools.

Student Enrollment

Enrollment as of November 1

Masking Required Threshold

Less than 500

Allen, Fairview, Fishing Creek, Highland, Newberry, Rossmoyne, and Washington Heights

5 cases within a 14-day period

500-999

Crossroads, New Cumberland, Hillside, and Red Mill

7 cases within a 14-day period

More than 1,000

Cedar Cliff and Red Land

13 cases within a 14-day period

 

  • When the masking threshold is met for an individual school, masks will be required in that school only, for 10 calendar days following the date in which the threshold is met. 
  • The masking requirement will be reevaluated after 10 days. 
  • If the 14-day case count remains at, or above, the threshold at the start of day 11, masks will be required for an additional 5 calendar days. After those 5 days, cases will be reevaluated again. With each subsequent reevaluation the potential exists for an additional 5 days of masking.
  • District Administration retains the discretion to “close a classroom” as a
     mitigation measure in lieu of imposition of school masking requirements based on the threshold of case counts.
 
Close Contact Tracing
Quarantining as a Mitigation Effort
  • Effective November 30, 2021, close contacts will not be required to quarantine, unless they are symptomatic, regardless of mask status. 
  • Families are strongly encouraged to monitor their children daily for symptoms and to contact their primary care provider when children are symptomatic. The need to quarantine may also be lifted if the child’s physician provides an alternative diagnosis. 
 
I presented the above information to the Board at last night's meeting. This presentation can be found on the District website's Keeping Our Schools Open page at: https://www.wssd.k12.pa.us/KeepingSchoolsOpen.aspx
 
To view the Board meeting in its entirety, please visit: https://video.ibm.com/channel/west-shore-school-district-board-meeting
 
Your continued collaboration and partnership is an invaluable part of what makes the West Shore School District a place where staff want to work, students want to be, and families want to live! I hope you and your family have a restful and safe Thanksgiving Break. We look forward to seeing students back in person on Tuesday, November 30.
 
Sincerely,
  
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Superintendent
[email protected]
#WestShoreProud
  


Message sent on November 10, 2021

Community Update on the Department of Health Mask Order

Good afternoon West Shore Students, Staff, and Families,
 
Earlier today, Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court ruled that the Acting Health Secretary failed to comply with state law when she ordered face coverings be worn in all Pennsylvania public and private schools, as well as child care facilities. Today's news comes just days after the Governor announced plans to return decision making regarding masks to school districts on January 17, 2022. 
 
As has been typical throughout the pandemic, this is a rapidly changing situation with differing interpretations regarding the impact of these announcements on school districts, and I am sure these recent developments have you wondering what this means for students and staff in the West Shore School District. 
 
Unless and until you hear otherwise from the District, face coverings will continue to be required indoors at all West Shore schools and District buildings. Additionally, staff and students will be required to wear a face covering while riding school transportation in alignment with the CDC Order regarding public transportation. 
 
As I shared earlier this school year, whether you believe face masks are effective or not, whether you are convinced there should be a mask requirement or not, today I am asking for your partnership around our shared goal...to keep our schools open as much as possible with minimal disruptions to learning. 
 
We will continue to monitor the Court ruling situation closely, and perhaps even more importantly, we will continue to monitor the impact of COVID on our school community. 
 
Thank you in advance for your partnership and support. 
 
Sincerely,
  
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Superintendent
[email protected]
#WestShoreProud
  


Message sent on September 3, 2021

Community Update Regarding the DOH Mask Order

Good afternoon West Shore students, families, and staff,
 
Following this week’s record rainfall, I hope today's message finds you safe and well. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I am proud of how our students, staff, and families supported one another throughout the storm and made sure our students had successful Remote Learning Days. As we head into next week, I trust I can count on your continued support.
 
This week, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health announced an Order 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. The current DOH Order aligns with our approved Health & Safety Plan and the District will comply with the Order.
 
Effective Tuesday, September 7, all students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear an appropriate face covering (mask or shield) when indoors at school and on District transportation.
 
Related Links
In my time as superintendent, you have partnered with me to overcome numerous challenges, and COVID (masking in particular) may very well be one of the most controversial challenges we will face together. Whether you believe face masks are effective or not, whether you are convinced there should be a mask requirement or not, today I am asking for your partnership around our shared goal... to provide a happy and healthy educational experience for our students and to keep our schools open as much as possible. I’m certain we all look forward to the time when children are able to attend school without masks. 
  
Best wishes for a relaxing holiday weekend.
 
Sincerely,
 
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Superintendent
[email protected]
#WestShoreProud
 

Message sent on August 29, 2021

Welcome Back Message from the Superintendent

Good afternoon West Shore students, staff, and families,

Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year! A new school year always feels like a fresh start. It is a time to welcome new students and staff, explore new areas of learning, and set new goals. 
 
As we start this school year, I believe we share a common goal to keep everyone safe, healthy, and in school as much as possible. In August 19th’s community update, I shared our safety protocols for the school year. Since that message, we have continued to clarify our procedures and processes. 
 
Important COVID-19 Health and Safety Information
  • Individuals who are sick and experiencing symptoms should remain at home.
  • Currently, masks are recommended indoors and required on buses.
 
After carefully reviewing our process and outcomes from last school year, we have updated our quarantine protocol so that individuals who are wearing a mask or vaccinated will not need to quarantine for the minimum 10 days, assuming they are asymptomatic. 
 
I encourage you to visit our website to view a detailed flow chart on our quarantine/isolation expectations, updated information regarding masking, and answers to frequently asked questions about Health and Safety for the upcoming year.
 
Links:
 
Transportation 
Like I have done in the past, I want to ask for your patience in regards to transportation during the first few weeks of school. As new bus drivers learn routes, traffic increases with the addition of student drivers, and families take a few extra seconds to take a picture or hug their child before they get on the bus, there could be delays in the morning schedule. In the afternoon, school staff and drivers work together to ensure each student is loaded safely onto the correct bus and dropped off at the appropriate location. 
 
As these new routines are established, this extra care to make sure all students are safe can result in delays. To help things run smoothly, please take a few moments to review your child’s bus information available on the PowerSchool website. Please note, bus pick up and drop off times are not available in the PowerSchool app. In addition, I’d ask you to please stay alert when driving past students at bus stops or walking to school, and reduce your speed in our school zones. 
 
First Day Signs and Video
Lastly, if you have not already, please consider participating in one of our favorite West Shore traditions, our first day signs and video. Last year’s video featured 724 photos, and we would love to surpass that number this year. You can find details about photo submissions and links to signs for all grade levels and staff on our website (click here).
 
I am confident that by working together, we can achieve a safe start and end to every school day. I am glad you are here and grateful for your partnership.
 
Best wishes for a great first day!
 
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Superintendent
[email protected]
#WestShoreProud



Message sent on August 19, 2021

Good afternoon West Shore students, staff, and families,
 
As we prepare for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and families remain at the forefront of our work. In spite of COVID-19's continued presence of in our community, I believe we share a common goal to limit disruptions to student learning as much as possible, while maintaining the health and safety of our students, staff, and visitors. To that end, we have several protocols in place to keep our buildings safe, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and to assist us in keeping our schools open five days a week for in-person instruction. Many of these measures will sound familiar as they were utilized last school year and have proven to be successful.
 
As we did last year, I want to assure you we will continuously monitor and assess health information pertaining to COVID-19; requirements received from PDE, DOH, or any other regulatory agency; and information from local health care providers to determine best practices moving forward and to guide our decision making.  It is critical we continue to work together in order for our schools to remain open for in-person instruction.
 
I encourage you to visit our website for information and answers to frequently asked questions related to our plans for this school year (click here to view). Additionally, I invite you to attend or tune in tonight, Thursday, August 19, when I will provide the Board with a report on our Health and Safety Plan. The Board Meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Administration Center and live streamed via our website. 
 
Thank you in advance for your partnership as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. I will keep you updated throughout the school year. 
 
 
Sincerely,
  
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Superintendent
[email protected]
#WestShoreProud
 


Message sent on July 13, 2021

Good afternoon West Shore students, staff, and families,

In just a little over a month our students and staff will be returning to the classroom. This summer, in addition to our usual summer preparations, administration has been closely monitoring requirements from PDE, DOH, and other regulatory agencies as they relate to health and safety precautions for the 2021-2022 school year.  

As you may recall from my June 24 update, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act requires school districts and other local education agencies (LEA) that receive funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to develop and make publicly available a Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan, commonly referred to as a Health and Safety Plan, no later than July 30, 2021. To learn more about ARP requirements for the Plan, please click here.

This Thursday, July 15, I will be presenting our Health and Safety plan for approval by the Board of School Directors. Our Plan was drafted on the following expectations:

  • All schools will be open for in-person instruction five (5) days a week.
  • Staff and students will not be required to wear face masks while at school.
  • Staff and students will be required to wear a face mask while riding school transportation in alignment with a federal CDC mandate regarding public transportation.
  • Individuals who wish to wear face masks as a mitigation measure will be permitted to do so – but that will be their personal choice.
  • Staff and students will not be required to be vaccinated in order to work at or attend our schools.
  • We will offer both full-time and blended virtual learning options through our ExCEL Virtual Learning Academy.

As I mentioned in my previous message, when requirements from PDE, DOH, or any other regulatory agencies change, we will revise our practices to comply with those restrictions and orders. For example, we recently received clarification regarding the requirement for masks to be worn on school buses/transportation.

I have attached a copy of our Health and Safety Plan to this message and encourage you to review it as it relates to the expectations outlined above. If after looking over our Plan, you should you wish to offer feedback, please use the link below.

https://forms.gle/VMsWSejY53xpKLNe8

Thank you in advance for your comments and for your ongoing patience and partnership as we have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. I will continue to keep you updated regarding our plans and expectations as the new school year approaches.  


Sincerely,
 
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Superintendent
[email protected]
#WestShoreProud


DRAFT-WestShore-HealthSafetyPlan.pdf
Please note, the draft plan linked above was approved by the Board on July 15, 2021.




Message sent on June 24, 2021
 
Good afternoon West Shore students, staff, and families,
 
With the lifting of Pennsylvania’s masking order fast approaching, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with some important information about our plans effective June 28, 2021, and for the start of next school year. 
 
Masking Order
The Acting Secretary of the Department of Health announced that the state face mask order will expire on June 28, or when 70 percent of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated, whichever happens first. Over the last several weeks, I have carefully reviewed current guidelines and recommendations and sought additional clarification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) on requirements for schools. 
 
Following those recommendations, starting on June 28, 2021, the West Shore School District will no longer require masks for individuals in our buildings.* However, masking continues to be recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for unvaccinated individuals, and we will continue to have a supply of masks available for individuals who would like to wear them.
 
Health and Safety Plan
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act requires school districts and other local education agencies (LEA) that receive funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to develop and make publicly available a Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan, commonly referred to as a Health and Safety Plan, no later than July 30, 2021.
 
This Health and Safety Plan is different than the plan required by PDE during the 2020-2021 school year, but its purpose is similar. It will serve as our action plan for maintaining the health and safety of students and staff. For more information about ARP requirements for the Plan, please click here.
 
I plan to present West Shore's Health and Safety Plan for approval by the Board of School Directors at its meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m. The Plan will be available for review 24 hours prior to that meeting on the Board Agenda.  As a reminder, meetings may be attended in-person or viewed online
 
Looking Ahead to Next School Year
With the face mask order soon to expire, the attestation order no longer in effect, and additional guidance from PDE now granting school districts the authority to establish their own restrictions, the focus of our Health and Safety Plan for the 2021-2022 school year will be on the following expectations.
 
  • All schools will be open for in-person instruction five (5) days a week.
  • Staff and students will not be required to wear face masks while at school.*
  • Individuals who wish to wear face masks as a mitigation measure will be permitted to do so – but that will be their personal choice.
  • Staff and students will not be required to be vaccinated in order to work at or attend our schools. 
  • We will offer both full-time and blended virtual learning options through our ExCEL Virtual Learning Academy.
 
As we are all aware, circumstances related to the pandemic can change rapidly.  We have and will continue to follow any requirements we receive from PDE, DOH, or any other regulatory agency. In the event the guidance is changed, we will revise our practices to comply with those updated restrictions, but at this point, we are looking forward to a more normal year in 2021-2022. As I did last school year, I will continue to keep you updated regarding our plans and expectations as the new school year approaches.
 
Thank you again to our students, staff, and families for your cooperation during a very challenging school year. Your patience, trust, and the confidence you have afforded me in making difficult decisions around the safety of our students and staff, are greatly appreciated. Your continued collaboration and partnership is an invaluable part of what makes the West Shore School District a place where staff want to work, students want to be, and families want to live!
 
I hope you and your family have a restful and safe summer. We look forward to seeing students on August 30, the first day of the 2021-2022 school year!
 
Sincerely,
 
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
Superintendent
[email protected]
#WestShoreProud


* It was Dr. Stoltz's intention in his message that the no-mask policy applies to everything District related...including buses. This clarification was added to the website following his email correspondence. 
 
 

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