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Lower Merion School District


Dec. 2, 2020, Update from Supt. Copeland
Dec. 2, 2020, Update from Supt. Copeland

Dear LMSD Families,

I hope you enjoyed a safe Thanksgiving holiday. I wanted to share information with you as we look ahead to our return to in-person instruction on Monday, December 7, 2020. Our current plan is to have students return to our buildings under the hybrid models that were in place prior to the most recent closure:

  • Kindergarten students will attend five mornings OR afternoons each week
  • Grades 1-5 will attend Monday-Thursday mornings OR afternoons each week, with asynchronous instruction on Fridays
  • Grades 6-12 will attend full days on Monday/Wednesday OR Tuesday/Thursday with asynchronous instruction on Fridays
  • Special education students return to their specific schedule that was in place prior to the most recent closure.

It is our hope that we will be able to continue in-person instruction under our hybrid models until it is safe for all students and staff to return to in-person instruction full time. To that end, we have submitted the "Attestation" form that the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) required as of November 23, 2020. An explanation of what the attestation entails is below. But what is most important to note is that while we hope to continue in-person instruction, there may be circumstances under which individual schools, or the District as a whole, will have to return – possibly with very short notice – to a fully remote model. This could be the result of case counts or due to operational challenges, such as a lack of available staff.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) reports COVID-19 transmission rates (low, moderate, substantial) by county that are linked to recommended instructional models. In our November 11, 2020, letter, we referenced that Montgomery County had moved to the substantial level of COVID-19 transmission, which was one factor in our decision to reduce transportation services that week. As of the week ending November 27th, Montgomery County has experienced four consecutive weeks of substantial transmission.

On November 23, 2020, the PADOH Secretary ordered that public school districts in counties with two consecutive weeks of substantial transmission attest to complying with the following in order to continue offering any in-person instruction:

  • The Updated Order of the PADOH Requiring Universal Face Coverings, which we reviewed in our correspondence to families on November 20, 2020
  • The Requirements for Pre-K to 12 Schools Following Identification of a Case(s) of COVID-19, which are new. These requirements provide the decision-making framework for addressing COVID-19 cases at the school building level. The framework includes metrics for closure (and other actions) based upon the enrollment of the school and the number of student/staff cases within a rolling 14-day period.
  • This chart is a compilation of the information provided by PDE and should be read in a clockwise fashion. For example, find your school and the number of cases reported, then look down the applicable column to the row reflecting the current transmission rate in the county. This will provide the applicable action steps for the district. At all times, we will work together with the Montgomery County Office of Public Health to determine when it is safe to resume in-school operations.

As mentioned above, this new framework means that we may be required to close a school with very short lead time. For example, when we re-open on Monday, the rolling 14-day period starts. If there are 2 new cases at Belmont Hills on Monday and 2 more new cases on Tuesday, we would be required to close Belmont Hills for three to seven days beginning Wednesday. The closure window could be shortened or lengthened based on the completion of contact tracing, cleaning and other remediation measures. In short, please anticipate such schedule adjustments.

Finally, some reminders:

  • If you enter Pennsylvania from another state or country, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth. If you cannot or choose not to get a test, you must quarantine for 14 days. This order does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment. We are asking that all families fully comply with these travel restrictions for the safety of our students, staff, and community.
  • If a member of your household has COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, call the LMSD Health Services COVID Healthline at 610-645-1973. This will allow the school nurses to keep track of cases and conduct prompt contact tracing, which is pivotal to controlling spread in our school community.
  • If you are able to drive your child to school or if they are able to walk or bike, please do so. This will decrease our dependence on LMSD Transportation. Carpooling is discouraged, unless everyone in the car is masked and windows can be kept open to promote fresh air circulation.

I know that we are all weary of the uncertainty and stress caused by the ongoing pandemic and that we are all looking forward to the arrival of vaccines that will help us get back to normal. Until then, I ask for your continued vigilance in following the health and safety protocols and for your flexibility and patience as we strive to keep our community safe and to continue to educate our children.


Robert Copeland

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