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Most York County school districts out ahead of new state guidance

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
A bus awaits students at New Salem Elementary School at the end of the school day Friday, March 13, 2020. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered Pennsylvania schools closed for 2 weeks starting Monday in an effort to contain the Cover-9 virus. Most York County Districts will be closed through March 30. Bill Kalina photo

At least 10 York County school districts are not planning to change their elementary schedules following guidance from state officials to bring elementary students back to in-person learning, but that's because most of them already hold grade school classes in person. 

Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education recommended Thursday that school districts return to in-person instruction for elementary students, arguing that the classroom is the best place for them. The new guidance takes effect in the third marking period, which begins in late January. 

State guidance previously recommended that all students in counties with substantial COVID-19 spread be taught in online-only systems. 

More:Four new COVID-19 deaths in York County

More:Pennsylvania: Send elementary students back to school

The Dallastown Area, Dover Area, Hanover Public, Northern York County, Red Lion Area, South Eastern and Spring Grove Area school districts all offer elementary classes five days a week, according to officials from each district. 

West Shore and West York districts hold elementary classes four days a week, with one day of remote learning. Officials from both districts said there are no plans to change the existing schedule because of the recommendation. 

The York Suburban School District offers an online-only and a hybrid option for elementary students. The hybrid option has those students in the classroom two days a week. Spokesman Nick Staab said district officials there are not considering changing that plan. 

York City School District is one of the few districts in the county that is fully remote for all grade levels. Spokeswoman ShaiQuana Mitchell said district leadership is considering the state recommendation, but no decisions had been made as of Friday afternoon. 

Schools, to this point, have not been seen as significant sources of contagion, according to The Associated Press. 

Arthur Steinburg, president of the Pennsylvania branch of the American Federation of Teachers, urged caution in following the state recommendation in a Friday news release. He said allowing elementary students back into the classroom during a time of substantial spread was "irresponsible and dangerous" and could lead to cases increasing at a higher rate. 

“It is troubling to see Pennsylvania’s chief public health official, and someone whom I greatly respect, issue guidance encouraging districts to return elementary school students to school as soon as next week," Steinburg said in the news release. "Currently, there is not enough data to ensure that this is safe."