Board approves updated Health and Safety Plan amid rising Covid cases

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Julia Nardone

The North Penn School Board approves the revised Health and Safety plan in the NPHS auditorium where they discuss masking, testing, and distance learning.

In the first work session meeting of 2022, the North Penn School Board met to discuss their only topic on the agenda: the Health and Safety Plan.

Using guidance from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health(MCOPH) that was provided only hours earlier, Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich presented the updated Health and Safety Plan presentation putting mask requirements, assurance testing, contact tracing, and the Test to Stay program up for discussion. 

An aspect of the plan that changed was the masking requirements for when the district is in low, moderate, substantial, and high. As seen here at the very bottom, the chart states that masks will be optional for all levels if we are in low or moderate. Substantial remains the same, and when we are in high (which is where we currently are averaging about 475 cases per 100,00 residents), masks will only be required indoors. 

There were clarifications regarding the Test to Stay program, as well as the Mask to Stay program. According to the slide below, the Test to Stay program is only for staff, whereas the Mask to Stay program is for both students and staff who are not fully vaccinated or are unvaccinated. 

“This was contemplated and also named with the idea that perhaps somewhere down the road when we get down to a more moderate status and maybe masking isn’t universally required, it still would be required for somebody who had an exposure who fits into this category,” Dietrich said, referring to the Test to Stay and Mask to Stay programs. 

In conjunction with the Test to Stay program and effective January 10, 2022, assurance testing for staff is no longer recommended by the MCOPH for required weekly testing of asymptomatic staff and students. This is partly a result of supply chain issues and the scarcity of rapid covid tests at this time, however, staff are still able to voluntarily take the tests if they desire to do so. While it is difficult to obtain the optimal amount of tests, the district is still making it a priority to provide tests for students and staff who need them. 

We’re having some real supply chain issues with the tests and we are investigating if there are any other opportunities to acquire tests that would be grant-funded also and we’ll see if that yields anything.”

— Dr. Curt Dietrich

“We’re having some real supply chain issues with the tests, they are available through a grant program that we have. We are investigating if there are any other opportunities to acquire tests that would be grant-funded also and we’ll see if that yields anything,” Dietrich explained. “It’s really hard to find them, they’re flying off the shelves immediately. They’re just not available like they should be, it’s really a concern.”

Despite shortages, the district will continue to provide as many tests as possible for students and staff who test positive in order to allow them to return to school. Students do not need to purchase their own tests to return to school. 

Contact tracing will continue to be used in the cafeteria, band, chorus, athletics, and theater, and those in close contact with someone who tested positive must quarantine. The Mask to Stay program requires students and staff to wear masks up to 10 days from exposure. 

There are two decision charts below, one for staff, and the other for students regarding when and how they are to return to school after being exposed or tested positive to Covid. 

The student chart is slightly more complicated because vaccinations are more recent for students ages five to twelve but the process remains the same. 

“It’s been a shared goal of all of us to do everything we can to layer in supports in the Health and Safety plan with the goal of keeping kids in school and keeping those kids safe and healthy with the same for our staff,” Board director Juliane Ramić said. 

At the end of the night, the Board approved the plan in the absence of Board directors Johnathan Kassa, Kathy Wesley, and Dr. Wanda Lewis-Campbell, and will take effect Wednesday, January 12, 2022. More information will be sent out Wednesday morning via email, school messenger, and the North Penn School District Website.

The next School Board meeting will be an action meeting on January 20, 2022, at 7 pm at NPHS.