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Bucks County proposes back-to school guidelines

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Bucks County’s guidelines to reopen the county’s 13 school districts in “a safe and reasonably normal” manner this fall, were announced Monday.

In accordance with a state-mandated process requiring school districts to develop their own health and safety plans, Dr. David Damsker, the county’s health department director, provided guidance to school administrators, as they prepare for in-person instruction.

“While health and safety considerations are paramount, guidance also is rooted in our understanding and belief that social interaction and in-person instruction is essential to our children’s emotional well-being, as well as their educational growth and advancement,” Damsker wrote, a county statement said.

Damsker’s letter recommended that masks be required on buses and possibly in hallways, but not in classrooms. Additionally, a minimum of three-feet distancing in classrooms should be followed, as should a strict regime of handwashing. Hallway traffic should be kept to a minimum and lunchtime seating should be staggered. No more than two students can sit together on buses.

While each district is free to create its own health and safety programs based upon its unique needs, Damsker stressed the importance of consistency. The health director said the county’s health department will treat COVID-19 much as it does other contagious diseases found in schools. Schools will remain open if there’s a confirmed case of the illness.

“We now face the task of planning for a safe and reasonably normal return to school in just a few short months,” Damsker said in his letter. “With the support of everyone involved, including students, their families and district staff, this can be accomplished effectively.”

Other recommended guidelines include:

Parents and guardians must screen children for symptoms before school each day, as must district staff before leaving for work.

Wearing masks will be allowed, but not required, in classrooms. All students and staff must have a mask with them at all times.

Staff unable to socially distance from students in class must wear a mask or face shield.

The Bucks County Health Department will take the lead on contact tracing, isolation of sick students and staff.

A full copy of Damsker’s letter can be seen at https://tinyurl.com/yc8ges3.

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