- CDC Procedures for COVID+ Cases in Schools
- Case Response Definitions
- Outbreak Containment
- Managing Individuals Waiting for Test Results
Message to Families – September 16
The updated EASD Medical Exception Form is now available on the our COVID-19 webpage. The form should be completed and submitted to your building principal by the end of the school day on Monday, September 20. If you have already submitted a doctor’s note along with the original form, there is no need to complete the new one. Our hope is that we can have all students who have medical or mental health concerns related to masks submit a completed EASD Medical Exception Form and begin that interactive process.
Please see the steps and information below regarding the exception consideration process and the three check-box options in the middle of the form:
Step 1 – Complete and submit the form, including any information you may have from your licensed medical or mental healthcare provider.
Step 2 – Check one of the three boxes in the middle of the form that best describes your situation.
- If the first box is checked, the process will begin immediately through an initial conversation with the school team and the parent/guardian.
- If the second box is checked, parents/guardians will be contacted to confirm the appointment and schedule the initial conversation.
- If the third box is checked, parents/guardians will be contacted to gather additional information regarding the concern and to potentially offer resources and information on licensed medical or mental healthcare providers.
- Submitting a completed form will initiate an interactive process and involve ongoing dialogue with parents and the school team. If it is decided that further information is needed to fully consider the exception request from the licensed medical or mental healthcare provider, it will be requested during these conversations.
- During the process to identify possible exceptions or accommodations, the student will be temporarily exempt from wearing a face covering until the process is complete.
- If you have any questions throughout the process, please reach out to your building principal.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Message to Families – September 14
In response to concerns associated with the Department of Health Mask Order medical exception process, we are in the process of updating our EASD Mask Exception Form so that it does not include a medical records request, among other changes.
If you have already completed the existing form, there is nothing more for you to do, unless you want to update your information on the new form, which will be available later this week. If you believe your child will qualify for an exception to the Order because a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or a disability, please complete the updated form.
As a result of this update, the deadline to have these forms submitted to your child’s building office has been moved to Monday, September 20 instead of tomorrow, September 15 as previously shared. A date for when doctor’s notes are due will be established once the updated form is available.
Thank you again for your patience as we sort through our district’s responsibilities in response to the Department of Health Mask Order and the related information issued by the Department of Education.
Message to Families – September 13
This is just a quick update to remind families of our next steps toward compliance with the statewide Mask Order.
- Tuesday, September 14 – All EASD MEDICAL EXEMPTION FORMS should be completed for any student seeking an exception and submitted to the office at your child’s school.
- Wednesday, September 15 – All students are expected to wear a face covering, unless the completed EASD Medical Exemption Form has been obtained by the District.
- Friday, September 17 – This is the last date for the District to receive information from a medical care provider – who has seen and treated the individual – related to why the mask is not medically appropriate for that individual.
- Monday, September 20 – Only students who have submitted both the EASD Medical Exemption form and verification from their medical care provider will be permitted to attend in-person school without wearing a face covering.
Lastly, listed and linked below are two additional pieces of information from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) we received late last week.
- PDE Acting Deputy Secretary: “This Order is not a mask optional policy. Any school entity simply permitting a parent’s sign-off without evidence that the student has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering is not in compliance with the Order. Under the Order, and as set forth in PDE’s Answers to FAQs, school entities must require all individuals, two years of age and older, to wear face coverings unless the individual has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering. In accordance with Section 3 of the Order, before an individual is excepted from the Order, all alternatives to a face covering, including a face shield, are to be exhausted. It is recommended that any exception be in accordance with eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or IDEA for such medical or mental health condition or disability. School entities should follow their established processes for determining student eligibility under those laws, including any medical documentation that they would normally require. There are exceptions to the Order; however, a parent’s opposition to the Order is not one of them.”
Thank you for your support, cooperation, and understanding.
Message to Families – September 9, 2021
Thank you all for the understanding and support we have been observing this week. While we know sending students to school with masks on is not what many imagined we would be doing this year, it is our reality. It is also, however, better than the possible alternative of not being able to hold in-person instruction at all. Over the first three days, we had about 90 percent of our students wearing face coverings, and we have already started the conversation with some on the medical exception process.
As we continue to work through questions and individual situations with all families, we want to remind everyone of the District FAQ PAGE and to use the link on that page to submit a question. To that end, we have some additional information relating specifically to the medical exception process.
- During these first few days of the Order, we allowed students who believe they will qualify for the medical exception to attend school without wearing a mask. We did this to allow time for families to access and complete the EASD MEDICAL EXEMPTION FORM and to secure a note from their medical provider. We initially shared that this grace period was for the first four days of the order, but after having heard from several parents that the process is taking longer than expected, we are extending the grace period through next Tuesday, September 14. Unfortunately, we have received many generic forms that do not meet the requirements. Forms from “Heritage Family Health” or simple notes, without details surrounding an individual’s medical or mental health condition, do not satisfy this requirement.
- Effective Wednesday, September 15, only those students who have a fully completed EASD Medical Exemption form on file will be permitted to attend in-person school without wearing a face covering (mask or approved shield).
- As we have shared, information from the DOH and the PDE make it clear that to complete the process that would exempt an individual from the DOH Mask Order, the District must receive information from a medical care provider – who has seen and treated the individual – related to why the mask is not medically appropriate for that individual. This information is due to the District by the end of the day on Friday, September 17.
- Effective Monday, September 20, only students who have submitted both the EASD Medical Exemption form and verification from their medical care provider will be permitted to attend in-person school without wearing a face covering (mask or approved shield).
- District staff will be in contact with individuals as soon as they initiate this process in order to expedite the process and provide the appropriate accommodation to the mask requirement.
As always, if you have any questions about this process or extenuating circumstances with your medical care provider that makes this adjusted timeline unmanageable, please reach out to your building principal to discuss the specifics.
Message to Families – September 6, 2021
I hope you are all taking advantage of this long weekend and enjoying time with family and friends!
The purpose of this email is to communicate some information about the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) Mask Order and how we will be handling tomorrow, the first day of school under the Order. As always, please continue to check our EASD FAQ page to stay up to date with the latest answers to questions, as this situation continues to change.
Please see the following updates and reminders:
- The District will be working toward compliance with the DOH Order starting tomorrow, Tuesday, September 7.
- Tomorrow, any student not wearing a mask will be reminded of the state-wide expectation to wear a mask and offered one to use. Parents will be informed of the student’s decision to not wear a mask.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Education provided new direction on Friday afternoon on the process for handling mask exemption requests. As a result, the same process that we had used last year will be in place for the 2021-22 school year. Due to the timing of this Order and clarification on the exemption request process, we understand that it may be difficult to obtain a signature from the student’s medical provider in such a short period of time. Consequently, we will accept the parent/guardian-signed notes to start the first week of implementation of the Order, recognizing that additional information will be needed from the student’s medical provider.
- The use of a face-shield instead of a mask is suggested as the first strategy to use when a medical condition prevents an individual from wearing a mask. In the past, the use of a shield instead of a mask has been seen as a reasonable accommodation in these situations. If you are in the process already or are planning to complete the medical exception process and want your student(s) to try the use of a face-shield starting Tuesday, that is appreciated.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Education continues to update and clarify their recommendations on how to implement the DOH Mask Order on their website.
Finally, it has been made clear that this issue of masks has been very divisive to some in our community, mirroring what is happening across the state and throughout our country. As a school district, we are no different. There are certainly some who advocate the use of masks in schools and those who oppose it. If we, as a country, state, community, or school district, focus too much on how the current – and everchanging – reality is out of alignment with our personal beliefs, it will distract us from our District mission and divert our energy away from serving our students.
Best wishes for a successful and respectful return to school tomorrow at each of our buildings!
Message to Families – September 3, 2021
Good morning, EASD families!
Message to Families – September 2, 2021
As we continue to gain clarity on the implementation of the PA Department of Health Mask Order, we now are able to answer the following questions to keep you informed. Please see the information below:
- Can face shields be used instead of masks? At the end of last year, face shields were to be used only in situation when a mask is not possible due to medical conditions. At this point, we do not have clarity on the process for when face shields may be used. For next week, until we have further clarification, face shields will be permitted in place of masks.
- Can a parent/guardian note work as a medical exemption for Tuesday due to the timing of the Order? Yes, in order to allow for a reasonable amount of time to complete the medical exemption process, a parent note for the first week (9/7-9/10) of this Order will be accepted.
- What are the consequences for not wearing a mask? This will be handled in a similar fashion to any other school rule and be handled differently according to the age of the student. As with any school rule that is not followed, our staff will react with reminders about the expectation, especially over the first weeks. If over time the adherence to a school rule does not improve, there may be consequences that fall in line with the building-level code of conduct.
- Will students have mask breaks throughout the day? Yes. Just like last year, there will be mask breaks administered for students. Additionally, this year, masks are not required for recess, gym class or related activities, and any other outside time.
As a reminder, please submit your questions HERE for timely answers and to help other families get the information they need.
Message to Families – September 2, 2021
As a Board, we want to communicate our top priority. It is the Mission of the Ephrata Area School District to provide all students a secure learning environment and exemplary academic programs that inspire all students to reach their full potential.
As a Board we care deeply about the safety of our students, and our focus remains on their opportunity to learn. We are aware that a safe learning environment for students means different things to different families. As a Board, we believe in the individual’s right to mask, and we set a Health and Safety Plan accordingly. We were highly disappointed by the latest decision of the PA DOH that took away local authority and its ability to make decisions that best represent a majority of its constituents.
We recognize that many families have made plans for the school year in response to our Health and Safety Plan and that the timing of this Order is extremely frustrating. Many of you have expressed your displeasure with a mask mandate. We heard you. As a Board, we are investigating our legal options in response to this Order. But we also recognize that due to the timing of the Order, it must be enforced starting next Tuesday.
After consulting with legal advice, we now know that an injunction could take weeks to take effect, so we are left with working within the mandatory mask policy. If you would like to submit a medical exemption from the mask mandate to be considered for your student, we encourage you to follow the process that Dr. Troop outlined in his communication to District families. While there are no quick options, we will be connecting regularly as a Board to determine our best course of action.
While all of us have to work within the scope of multiple regulations and guidance, we will continue to work to create an environment in which our students find their greatest opportunities to learn and prepare themselves for their future.
Message to Families – September 2, 2021
On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Wolf announced an indoor mask mandate issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) for schools that will go into effect on Tuesday, September 7. The Order does not apply to athletics inside or outside, outdoor recess, or physical activities indoors or outside. Additional details regarding the Governor’s announcement can be found HERE. It is important to note; the Order is not a recommendation, but a requirement. It applies to all schools, public and private, throughout the Commonwealth. We have consulted our legal team, who have shared the following details:
- The Order is a “control measure” issued pursuant to authority granted to the Department of Health under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. 35 P.S. Section 521.5.
- The Order requires all teachers, students, staff, and visitors to wear a face covering indoors at school, unless an exception applies, and further requires schools to enforce the Order’s requirements.
- Violations of the Disease Prevention and Control Law are subject to potential penalty through a criminal summary offense, with the potential of fines and/or jail time. 35 P.S. Section 521.20.
Therefore, in compliance with this Order and in accordance with our Health and Safety Plan, masks will be required for all students who plan to attend in-person instruction within any of our buildings starting Tuesday, September 7. We are hopeful that this is not a permanent situation but rather one that can be pulled back in the coming weeks. We will continue to monitor updates and further clarification from the DOH.
We recognize this change is unwanted by many families. As is demonstrated by our Board-approved Health and Safety Plan, we did not intend to be issuing a mask mandate. The reality right now is that there has been one issued that we must implement, whether we like it or not. Additionally, we have heard from a few parents with intentions to not comply and demand that their children be admitted to school without a mask, in order to “take a stand” or “make a statement” about how parents/guardians oppose the Order. We collectively as a district, ask that these types of actions be avoided as they will only serve to escalate the issue and potentially damage relationships between students and staff.
As this is a change from what our students have become accustomed to this week, we are asking staff to be flexible in our reminders to students in those first few days. Ultimately, however, continued and intentional failure to wear a mask as required under this Order will result in disciplinary measures, just as was the case last year. This again is something that the Order requires, and each of our staff members could be held personally liable if he/she does not enforce the Order.
We also understand that the timing of this Order is less than ideal as our school year has just gotten underway. The order includes the date of October 1 as a check-point when further direction will be provided based on how well COVID is being managed across the state. Our School Board, who also did not advocate for this Order, will be communicating from their perspective to families later today.
We are hopeful that this Order does not cause anyone to reconsider their instructional mode, but if that is not the case, and you find yourself looking at potential virtual options for the first marking period, please CLICK HERE to learn about the District EVA-Flex and EVA-Live options or CLICK HERE to request to have someone contact you to discuss options. As was the case last year, if you feel that your child has an existing medical condition that would qualify him or her for a mask exemption, please complete the exemption form HERE and submit it to the school office for consideration.
A positive aspect of having all students wear masks is that the contact tracing distance changes from 6 feet to 3 feet, thus reducing the number of students recommended for quarantine when a positive case occurs. This will undoubtedly reduce the number of quarantined individuals as we start the year.
Throughout the last few months, we have maintained a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for your reference. Included on this page is a link to ask a new question that has not already been considered. CLICK HERE to access already asked questions or to submit a new question about the contents of this message.
Finally, we know this issue of masks has become more than a mitigation strategy for many, and the negative aspects of this Order may make it hard to focus on the positives. As we saw, heard, and felt in these first few days of the school year, our students and staff are excited about having in-person instruction with their classmates back in school! We can continue to keep our schools open and our students engaged as we power through this latest obstacle in our path, together.
Message to Families – August 31, 2021
Please see the following updates on two time-sensitive items:
- We are monitoring the impact of Hurricane Ida in our local area and paying special attention to possible flooding and related transportation challenges. At this time, we plan to have a regular school schedule tomorrow. However, please continue to monitor our normal means for communicating weather-related items, including our social media pages. (Twitter, Instagram & Facebook)
- Earlier this afternoon, Governor Wolf announced a mask mandate issued by the PA Department of Health that will go into effect on Tuesday, September 7. Additional details regarding the Governor’s announcement can be found HERE. We will follow-up with further District communication to families on this within the next 24 hours.
Message to Families – August 20, 2021
Over the past week, we have been receiving new information regarding how we respond to COVID cases this year. This new information has been updated on the District COVID-19 webpage.
In short, if we become aware of a COVID-19 case within one of our schools, vehicles, or activities, we will complete initial contact tracing as directed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). Individuals identified as close contacts will be notified by the District, and their names will be submitted to the Department of Health.
A close contact is an individual who was within 6 feet of a COVID+ individual for 15 or more minutes, consecutively. There is an exception to this definition this year in cases where both the COVID+ individual and contact were masked AND the contact was not within 3 feet of the COVID+ individual.
If the Department of Health places an individual in isolation due to testing positive for COVID or in quarantine due to being identified as a close contact, he or she will not be permitted to attend school until the isolation or quarantine period has ended. More details on this process, including a flow chart that provides information on the duration of isolation and quarantine period based on the individual situation, can be found HERE on our website. (Note: Individuals identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic and are vaccinated or have had COVID-19 in the last three months.)
At the building level, we have been given new guidance on how we should respond to outbreaks within classrooms, extra-curricular groupings, and whole school events. We are required to consult with the Department of Health to consider additional mitigation measures, including closure, when we experience an outbreak at the classroom or group level, as well as at the building level. Details on outbreak containment can be found HERE.
As we did last year, we will be closely monitoring the number of cases within each building and displaying that information on our COVID-19 tracker, which will display the number of cases, by building, that were present in the preceding 14 days. For this year, the number that will cause a building to be considered for a temporary closure is 5 percent of the number of individuals (students and staff) who attend that school each day. CLICK HERE to see the building-specific numbers. As an example, our high school will be considered for a closure of up to 14 days if it reaches approximately 70 cases in any 14-day period, while the number for an elementary will be approximately 25. We generally had less than five cases in the 14-day window in any of our buildings last year.
While we continue to support the mask optional policy that is included in our current Health and Safety Plan, we will be using a temporary (2-3 week) mask requirement for buildings that reach 3 percent of the number of individuals (students and staff) who attend that school each day. We know a mask requirement, even for a short period of time, is not preferred or ideal for many parents and students. We believe it is a reasonable response to an outbreak situation that could potentially help a school facing closure. This would essentially serve as an early warning system for a building closure.
We are committed to having our schools open for in-person instruction and believe that is the best way to provide students with an educational program that is engaging and supportive. Being in a situation where we need to close a school for multiple days or weeks, due to a COVID outbreak, is something we want to take every measure to avoid. We believe this “3 percent” strategy could help us provide a safety net and help us avoid a large outbreak and school closure.
Throughout this school year, we will be continually monitoring the COVID-related information and adapting our response to the dynamic situation in each of our buildings.
Thank you for your continued flexibility, patience, and support!
Message to Families – August 3, 2021
This winter, the CDC issued an order that requires masks to be worn on all conveyances carrying passengers, including school buses. This CDC Order was only effective in states that did not have their own mask orders; now that Pennsylvania’s mask order has expired, the CDC Order is in effect. We had hoped that the CDC would revisit its mask order before the start of the school year, but that has not happened. The Pennsylvania Department of Education notified school districts that the CDC Order applies to school bus passengers. Therefore, we wanted to let you know how we will be handling masks on school buses in the District.
This communication serves to inform all parents/guardians of the CDC order and the expectation that students are to wear masks while passengers on school buses. The District is encouraging voluntary compliance with the CDC Order, but it will not deny school transportation services or impose disciplinary measures upon students for non-compliance with the CDC mask order. Disposable masks will be made available to students on all school buses, if desired.
Please contact our transportation office if you have any questions regarding this CDC Order or how the District will be implementing it on our vehicles.
Message to Families – July 26, 2021
We have been made aware of some confusion in the wording for the survey issued last week that could impact the accuracy of the results. We apologize for this confusion and have worked to simplify the questions to more clearly gather feedback from parents/guardians.
An updated survey replaces the survey shared with District families last week. Please CLICK HERE to complete the revised survey by the end of the day this Thursday even if you also completed a survey last week.
Again, we apologize for the confusion and are anxious to collect more accurate parental feedback. Thank you for your support as we plan for a successful start to the 2021-2022 school year!
Message to Families – July 19, 2021
Like many of you, we are looking forward to the start to the 2021-2022 school year! We are excited that it is looking more and more like a typical, pre-COVID-era return. As part of this process, we are required to have an updated Health and Safety Plan on our website so that anyone can see how we are providing a learning and work environment that prioritizes health, safety, choice, and learner engagement.
While we had updated our plan in June, there has been some additional information shared from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Departments of Health (DOH) and Education (PDE). The most important part of this new information, in our view, is the commitment by the DOH and PDE to let local school districts make decisions that make sense for their community and the students they serve. We are excited to not be in a “one-size-fits-all” situation when it comes to decisions impacting how we at the Ephrata Area School District serve our students and community. Information on how to access this draft plan, provide feedback, and other related links is below.
Additionally, below is information about the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief of 2021 (ARP ESSER), which also includes a link to a separate survey.
- A draft of the updated Health and Safety Plan for the 2021-2022 school year is based upon current information and is intended to guide the opening of the 2021-2022 school year.
Additionally, to help answer questions and clarify how the District would respond if and when the state would issue further guidance, direction, or mandates, we have prepared FAQs, which are available HERE on the District website. Please CLICK HERE if you would like to submit a question related to the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
- The Ephrata Area School District is slated to receive approximately $5 million in funding from ARP ESSER. Of that amount, twenty percent ($1 million) must be used for learning loss activities.
District Administration is currently in the planning phases of how this money will be utilized over the next three years. The District administration has identified possible priorities. If you would like to provide feedback on the District plans for the use of ARP ESSER funds, please CLICK HERE to complete a survey by Wednesday, July 28.
Thank you for your support as we plan for a successful start to the 2021-2022 school year!
Message to Families – June 21, 2021
We remain committed to maintaining clear and transparent communication leading up to the 2021-2022 school year and have compiled important documents and resources, including an updated FAQ webpage. It is important to note that all of these documents were developed with the understanding that the state mask mandate will be lifted on June 28th or sooner. If that changes or another mandate is issued, both the Summer 2021 Health and Safety Plan and the 2021-2022 Health and Safety Plan will be revisited. Please click on the links below for more information.
- School Board Statement – Board President Mr. Rick Gehman publicly read this statement on Tuesday, June 8 to express the Board’s thinking associated with the upcoming school year.
- Summer 2021 Health & Safety Plan – This plan was developed to help guide activities throughout the summer and was approved by the School Board on Monday, June 14.
- 2021-2022 Health & Safety Plan – This required plan is based upon current information and is intended to guide the opening of the 2021-2022 school year. This plan will go into effect on Friday, July 30.
Additionally, to help answer questions and clarify how the District would respond if and when the state would issue further guidance, direction, or mandates, we have prepared FAQs, which are available HERE on the District website.
If you have additional questions related to the start of the 2021-2022 school year, please submit them for consideration and inclusion on the FAQs page. Thank you for your support as we plan for a successful start to the 2021-2022 school year!
Already have a Parent Portal account? LOG IN HERE
Could you use an extra hand during the pandemic? Please contact any of the organizations listed below for more information.
These organizations have expressed interest in providing services to EASD families during the COVID-19 school closure, including transportation to meal distributions and more. If you are interested in providing a service to families in need during this time, please contact District Community Relations Director Sarah McBee at Sarah_McBee@easdpa.org or 717-721-1589.
- Align Pregnancy Services – Free Baby Essentials – Marysue Ruth – 717-733-9440
- Clay Elementary School PTO – Lisa Hurst – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ephrata Area Social Services – 717-575-0216
- Ephrata Church of the Brethren – Michelle Nolt
- NEED A RIDE TO EASD MEAL DISTRIBUTIONS: 717-575-0216
- WANT TO VOLUNTEER OR NEED ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE:
- Go to www.ecob.church
- Click on “ECOB COVID-19 Response- Learn More”
- Choose the gray “Need Help/Willing to Serve”
- Choose “I am willing to help!” or “I am in need!”
- Complete the form
- You will be contacted by someone on the Rapid Response Team.
- Grace Church – Kay Gehr – 717-203-1104
- Living Ministries – Janina Knowles – 717-681-8212, email@example.com
- Ministerios Peniel Internacional – Pastor Celia Cardoza-Hill – 717-925-9513, firstname.lastname@example.org
- PA Counseling Services/Student Assistance Program (SAP) – Donna Soto – (717)742-0368, email@example.com
- PowerPacks – Steph Weber – firstname.lastname@example.org
- TNT Youth Ministries/Ephrata Community Church – Mike Wenger – (717) 381-1688, email@example.com
- United Way: Central PA Region – 866-311-3832
Children who will be five years old on or before September 1, 2021 are eligible to be registered for kindergarten in the 2021-2022 school year.
Learn about the Kindergarten registration process, how to prepare children for Kindergarten, AND MORE in the video below.
No in-person registrations are taking place this year.
The following documents need to be scanned in advance and uploaded during the online registration:
- Proof of Residency for Parent/Guardian (utility bill, lease, housing contract)
- Student’s Birth Certificate
- Student’s Updated Immunization Record
- Photo ID of the person legally authorized to register the student
- Additional Forms, if applicable (custody agreement)
QUESTIONS? Call 717-721-1400 or e-mail P_Sensenig@easdpa.org.
Get to know your principal and school with our virtual WELCOME TO KINDERGARTEN MESSAGES!
The early dismissal schedule on the last day of school, Friday, June 4, has been modified slightly to allow students to get home earlier in the day.
Grab-and-go lunches will be available at each building for students to take with them prior to dismissal. The new dismissal times for Friday, June 4 are:
High School: 11:00 AM
Middle School: 10:55 AM
Intermediate School: 11:45 AM
Elementary Schools: 11:40 AM