COVID 19 UPDATE 8.18.20

The Bedford Area School District is disheartened to tell the community our State Government has, once again, changed guidelines for the reopening of schools. To be clear, we firmly believe in protecting our students and community, our discouragement comes from the lack of planning and strategic thinking by our State leaders. We firmly believe many topics in the recently issued guidelines were predictable and the State should have planned for this reality earlier than two days before schools are set to reopen. In the spirit of transparency, we believe this similar pattern will continue in other areas such as the fall sports season. This statement is intended to notify the community, your school district continues to plan in this ever-changing environment with the goal of protecting your children and providing the best education possible under these circumstances.

We offer the following information about recent changes:

Prior to August 17, 2020, all State guidelines stated masks were not required if we socially distance students. We informed the community in accordance with this information. On August 17, 2020 at 2:22 P.M., the State released the following guidelines:

In summary, masks are now required even while socially distancing. Students may take ten minute breaks from masks while socially distancing, but it is unclear how often they may take breaks. Again our goal is to protect students; our angst is the timeliness of this information.

Additionally, on August 10th and 13th the State also released recommendations for determining the method of instruction based on the prevalence of Covid-19 and when districts should close schools and/or change instructional models. Recommendations with very specific steps attached to very specific data points do not feel like recommendations… Please review the State’s recommendations:

In summary, the Bedford Area School District wants the community to know we are actively seeking to understand the nature of these recommendations. Are they recommendations or are we required to closely follow them? We appreciate some guidance at this point after months of vague messages stating re-opening plans are local decisions.

Given some of the changes, we received several questions asking if we will change course and bring all students back at one time.

We remain committed to the 5 days on / 5 days off method of instruction. Our contact tracing models and our review of other school system/college experiences reveal Covid can spread rapidly and requires periods of quarantine to mitigate the spread. Our current method of instruction allows us to quickly enact a quarantine while not completely stopping face to face education. For example, if we would experience a quick surge of the virus, we could cancel face to face education for one group of students and begin a period of quarantine with them. This approach would allow us to begin face to face instruction as scheduled the next week with the other group of students. Please note: in accordance with the latest State recommendations, a surge in one school district in Bedford County could create a statistical situation where the county’s data would reflect the need to transition all schools in the county to virtual education.

In closing, we want you to know your local district leaders are working tirelessly to make sense of the changing environment. WE are absolutely committed to our community and do not waiver from our commitment to you to protect your children and provide the best education possible under these circumstances. Frankly, in an effort to create a path forward for our students, parents, and community, we lead from the front when permissible and fill in the gaps to the best of our abilities with student-centered decisions.