HEALTH & SAFETY PLAN
Revisions have been made to the District Health & Safety Plan, which includes the most recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations. In alignment with this guidance, the District will no longer be conducting contact tracing; masking will remain optional. Families are encouraged to contact their school nurse with any specific questions.
New school meal prices are listed below, as free meals are no longer being provided by the USDA.
- Elementary: Breakfast $1.50, Lunch $2.70
- EIMS: Breakfast $1.80, Lunch $2.90
- EHS: Breakfast $1.80, Lunch $3.25
Additionally, the District will be utilizing a new point-of-sale system, SchoolCafe. Families can deposit money electronically, set up low balance alerts, view transactions, apply for free or reduced meals, and more. Directions and more information on the new system is available on the District website and have been emailed to families. Any questions should be directed to Marti Rhoads at email@example.com or 717-721-1400 X 11302.
Renovations will soon be completed at Ephrata High School, including the construction of a building addition, new tennis courts, and a full HVAC system replacement. The improvements include increased space for the music and theatre programs and the relocation of Project Build A Better Future, EVA Studio, and the Student Support Services Department. Students were engaged in design reviews and provided input regarding many of the final finishes, including keyboard-inspired flooring in the music areas. Lastly, the new HVAC system will utilize higher efficiency equipment at lower energy costs to improve the indoor air quality through increased ventilation and filtration.
EPHRATA VIRTUAL ACADEMY (EVA)
For over 10 years, EVA has offered virtual instruction identical to cyber charter programs, including on-demand (asynchronous) instruction and optional scheduled live teacher support. New this year, the variety and number of virtual course offerings have increased to four different online learning providers. Additionally, EVA features regular teacher check-ins, live-help via online tutors available during the school day, and weekly teacher office hours. Plus, EVA students also receive:
- Computer & software
- Local Contact Person
- Ephrata High School Diploma
- Mounts Tech Support
- Opportunity to participate in EASD electives on-site, sports, music, art, theater, & more
- Life Ready Graduate Certification Eligibility
- Internship Opportunities
- Lancaster County CTC
- Special Education Services
For more information on EVA, please contact Ronald Wales at Ronald_Wales@easdpa.org or 717-721-1150, extension 19505.
ATTENDANCE EMAIL COMMUNIATION
When students are absent, parents/guardians are encouraged to send email excuses to improve the efficiency of this communication. Attendance emails for each school are listed below.
- Akron Elementary School: AESAttend@easdpa.org
- Clay Elementary School: CESAttend@easdpa.org
- Fulton Elementary School: FESAttend@easdpa.org
- Highland Elementary School: HESAttend@easdpa.org
- Ephrata Intermediate School: EISAttend@easdpa.org
- Ephrata Middle School: EMSAttend@easdpa.org
- Ephrata High School: EHSAttend@easdpa.org
STUDENT ENGAGEMENT FACILITATORS
The District is implementing two new positions – Student Engagement Facilitators – who will work cooperatively with various stakeholders to develop, promote, execute, and maintain successful programs and environments that promote student voice, engagement, and belonging. Through student collaboration, program/environment assessment, curriculum implementation, professional learning, and community outreach, the Student Engagement Facilitators will help create and improve the sense of belonging experienced by ALL students by informing decisions at every level – from classroom to District Office – with the student voice and perspective.
The District continues to grow collaborative, community projects called Cornerstones across every grade level to create real world connections and enhance students’ Life Ready Graduate skills & dispositions. Every thematic unit is unique to the grade level, including second-graders learning about the community, eighth-graders creating their own start-up businesses, and high school students addressing the questions, “What makes me tick” and “How do I design my future?” Many opportunities are available for community involvement. Please contact Caryn Andes for more information at Caryn_Andes@easdpa.org.
INTERNSHIPS & CO-OPS
The EHS Internship & Co-op Program pairs juniors and seniors who wish to participate in a career-related learning experience with area businesses allowing students to learn and apply skills authentically in a real-world setting. For more information or to offer an internship or co-op experience for EHS students, please contact Michele Myers at 717-721-1478, extension 19207 or Michele_Myers@easdpa.org.
Please visit the easdpa.org/HR to view all current employment vacancies. Additionally, a variety of substitute opportunities are available.
NATIONAL LIGHTHOUSE RECOGNITION
Ephrata Area School District was recently recognized by The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) as one of 13 national Lighthouse school districts. Lighthouse districts serve as models of positive change in public education and are engaged in learning, networking, and working together to help drive education policy and ultimately improve student learning. According to AASA, these districts are “exemplary educational systems that serve as beacons of light in key areas of the holistic redesign of American education.” Learn more at easdpa.org.
Message to Families – January 3
Over the holiday break on December 27, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidance on how to respond to situations when an individual tests positive for COVID, as well as for those who have been identified as a close contact. On December 30, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) issued similar new guidance. Our School Board-approved Health and Safety Plan directs us to consider updated guidance from the DOH and the CDC and to implement it when practicable.
Effective immediately, the Ephrata Area School District will be handling COVID positive cases and close contacts as follows, consistent with the updated DOH and CDC guidance:
- Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days, and then follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when indoors around others if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours). The option of isolating for the full 10 days remains available for those interested.
- Individuals identified as close contacts who are unvaccinated or who are eligible (i.e., more than 6 months after primary vaccine series) but have not yet received a booster vaccine should quarantine at home for 5 days, and then wear a mask around others for 5 days. If a 5-day quarantine is not feasible for an individual, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a mask when around others for 10 days after exposure to the COVID positive individual.
While not a requirement, both the DOH and CDC additionally recommend that close contacts get tested on day 5 after exposure.
Thank you for the ongoing flexibility and support!
Message to Families – December 23
As we look ahead to the holiday break, we wanted to share some updates regarding COVID cases from this week and how we plan to handle reporting positive cases and close contacts that we are notified of over the next ten days.
- Over the course of the past week, we had 5 new COVID-19 cases in the District – 1 at Fulton and 2 each at Clay and the Middle School. Additionally, we were made aware of several cases that occurred prior to this week – 1 each at Clay, Highland, and the Middle School and 2 each at the Intermediate School and High School. All active cases are included on the COVID-19 Dashboard on the District website. The individuals who were impacted directly have been notified and given information specific to them.
- On Monday, December 27, the COVID-19 Dashboard will be updated, contact tracing will occur, and email notifications will be sent for any positive cases we are made aware of between December 24-26. On Thursday, December 30, the COVID-19 Dashboard will be updated, contact tracing will occur, and email notifications will be sent for any positive cases we are made aware of between December 27-29. Cases reported after December 29 will be addressed when schools reopen on Monday, January 3. COVID+ cases within District extracurriculars will be handled individually based on the details of the cases reported and the schedule of events over the break.
As always, please continue to treat all potential COVID symptoms seriously and employ recommended mitigation strategies whenever practicable. Our District email address for reporting cases (COVIDReport@easdpa.org) will remain in use over the break for families to inform the District of any situation where a student tests positive for COVID-19.
Thank you for your continued cooperation, flexibility, and support during the first few months of the school year. We look forward to continuing our work together in 2022!
Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!
Message to Families – December 10
Late this afternoon the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the mask mandate for K-12 schools and childcare facilities. We are still gathering details about this latest development and the status of the Order.
If there are no significant changes to the current status over the next 48 hours, effective on Monday, December 13 masks will be optional for students, staff, and visitors.
Message to Families – December 2
Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced that the original Department of Health mask Order from the Department of Health remains in place. The Supreme Court shared that they would provide a ruling in this case, but until that time, the Order is still in effect and enforceable. As a result of this latest development, as well as direction from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and consultation with the EASD School Board, we will be following the Order.
Effective Monday, December 6, EASD students, staff, and visitors are expected to wear face coverings unless they had previously received an exception. All confirmed exceptions will remain in place.
Based on legal guidance concerning the case, we believe the PA Supreme Court ruling will be the last status change to the existing Order prior to the January 17 expiration date set by Governor Wolf. As has been reported in the media, the Supreme Court intends to hear initial arguments on December 8th with no confirmed timeline thereafter on a decision.
We recognize the frustration for many that a reinstatement of our compliance with the Order represents. As has been shown within our Board-approved Health and Safety Plan, when not legally compelled to require masks for all, the decision to wear a mask is left to the individual student and family.
Even though this is not the situation we had hoped for as we begin this holiday season, it is our current reality. We have every intention to continue our focus on student learning as our number one priority over these remaining few weeks of the Order.
We thank you in advance for your continued cooperation, adaptability, and support.
Message to Families – November 23
On behalf of the entire Ephrata Area School District, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We are hopeful you have an opportunity to share some time over the break with your friends and family appreciating what we can be thankful for this season. In the face of a variety of challenges this fall, I am thankful for the resilient spirit, adaptability, and love of learning on display in classrooms throughout the District. While our mission statement calls on us to “inspire all students…,” it is they who have been my inspiration these last few months!
As we head into Thanksgiving break, we would like to share our plan for reporting positive cases and close contacts. Please continue to use the COVIDReport@easdpa.org email account to inform the District of any situation where a student tests positive for COVID-19. While the District COVID Dashboard will not be updated over the Thanksgiving break, contact tracing and notifications will occur on Wednesday (11/24), Friday (11/26), and Sunday (11/28). The COVID Dashboard will be updated on Tuesday morning to reflect any activity over the break.
Thank you for your continued cooperation, flexibility, and support. We look forward to seeing students back in session on Tuesday, November 30.
Message to Families – November 10
Today, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court voided the Department of Health Face Covering Mandate for all Pennsylvania schools.
Our District Health and Safety Plan states, “The Ephrata Area School District will adhere to any existing, valid, and binding orders from the PA. Dept. of Health.” In alignment with this statement and today’s removal of the mandate, face coverings will now be optional for all EASD students and staff, effective immediately. All additional health, safety, and cleaning protocols will remain in place.
Thank you for your ongoing support. We will continue to share any updates, as they become available.
Message to Families – October 1
As we head into this first weekend of October, I wanted to reach out today with the following information about events taking place next week:
- School-Wide COVID+ Emails
We are making a slight change to our practice of sending building-wide emails each time there is a COVID case in our schools. Instead, we will now send a weekly email with any general updates that includes a link to the COVID-19 Dashboard. The dashboard is always available on the District website and is updated twice daily when school is in session.
- School Board Committee of the Whole Meeting
The October School Board Committee of the Whole meeting is this Monday at 7:00 PM at the Ephrata Middle School and online via Zoom. Committee of the Whole meetings are held for the School Board to hear presentations, review policies, evaluate data, and hold discussions. They are not voting sessions.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health Mask Order requires all students, staff, and visitors attending activities inside District buildings to wear a mask. Therefore, masks will be required for those attending in-person on Monday night. To accommodate those who wish to attend without wearing a mask, the meeting will also be offered via livestream. CLICK HERE to view the livestream Monday night. There may be a short period for public comment after the Committee of the Whole agenda is reviewed, time permitting. If there is time for public comment, those attending online and in-person will have equal opportunity to address the Board.
- Half Day – Wednesday, October 6
Our first half-day of the school year is scheduled for Wednesday, October 6. Lunch will be served. Dismissal times are listed below:
- Elementary Schools: 12:40 PM (AM K: 10:25 AM & PM K: 12:40 PM)
- Intermediate School: 12:45 PM
- Middle School: 11:55 AM
- High School: 12:00 PM
- Pupils Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) Survey
During October, students will be asked to participate in the PASS Survey (Pupils Attitudes to Self and School). Administered to students in Kindergarten through Grade 12, this screener assesses how students feel about school and themselves as a learner, including connectedness, and motivation. The information obtained is confidential and is only communicated to specific school staff when there may be a need for additional support. The survey is short, taking only 15-30 minutes to complete, and will take place during regularly scheduled classes. Please contact your school principal with any questions.
Message to Families – September 24
Friday night football, the Ephrata Fair, and chilly mornings – I hope you are enjoying the arrival of fall and these longstanding traditions!
As we all head into the weekend, we have few items to share related to the Mask Order and COVID-19:
- Those families who are currently in the exception consideration process with the District will be receiving direct communication early next week concerning the status of their request.
- We continue to receive questions and provide answers related to the Mask Order or COVID-19 through our FAQ page. Please continue to submit questions to the District there.
- In case you have questions about the Mask Order related to decisions made at the state level, please see the following contact information:
- Governor Tom Wolf — Contact Form or by phone at 717-787-2500
- Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) – Contact via email. DOH issued the Mask Order to schools on August 31, 2021.
- Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) — Contact Form. PDE provides districts with clarification on how to implement directives, like the DOH Mask Order.
- Continue to use the COVIDReport@easdpa.org email address to report a test or result to the District.
We realize this is not the return to school any of us had hoped for back in June and July. That is certainly true for the teachers, staff, administration, and the Board here at the District as well. We are, however, doing our collective best to minimize distractions and maximize the school experience for our students.
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!
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
SNOW DAY / SCHOOL CLOSED – THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2020
Due to inclement weather, the Ephrata Area School District schools and offices will be closed on Thursday, December 17, 2020.
As communicated previously, Thursday will NOT be an online learning day. We will, however, be considering Friday as a potential online learning day in the event it remains unsafe to transport students and staff to school. In that situation, activities and assignments will be provided from your child’s teacher(s) by 10:00 AM on Friday morning. Teachers will be available to answer questions and communicate with students via email or Schoology messages throughout the normal school day. The decision for Friday will be made early Thursday evening.
Lastly, as our cleaning protocols will continue while schools are closed, our state-mandated 14-Day Rolling Count for COVID-19 closure purposes will reset to zero in every building once students return to school.
Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable snow day!
EARLY DISMISSAL – WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2020
On Wednesday, December 16, the District will be dismissing early.
- High School 11:15 AM *
- Middle School 11:15 AM *
- Intermediate School 12:00 PM
- Elementary School 12:10 PM
Lunch will be provided.
Bussed AM Kindergarten students will be transported home at 12:10 PM. (Parents/guardians may pick up AM Kindergarten students at their normal dismissal time if they wish.) There is no PM Kindergarten.
*While most students in the High School and Middle School are learning online today, the students in grades 7-12 who do come to school for in-person instruction on Wednesdays will be dismissed at 11:15 AM.
EMAIL TO FAMILIES ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2020
Based on the current forecast, it looks like we will be having our first potential snow closure later this week. The storm is forecast to arrive in our area Wednesday early afternoon. Therefore, we are planning for a normal start to the school day tomorrow and will monitor the forecast throughout the morning for a potential early dismissal. We will make the early dismissal call by 9:30 AM and communicate important details if we go in that direction.
If the present forecast plays out, we will get over a foot of snow, and Thursday will be the first snow day of the school year. We will make that call by 7:00 PM on Wednesday at the latest. As we have said, we will not be doing a virtual instruction day for a single-day weather closure. This will allow staff to get a day to breathe and relax a little, while affording students the option to get outside and be kids.
We will, however, be looking ahead to Friday as a potential virtual instruction day in the event it is not safe to transport students and staff to school. In that situation, we will pivot to an asynchronous learning day with activities and assignments provided from your child’s teacher(s) on Friday morning. Teachers will be available to answer questions and communicate with students via email or Schoology messages throughout the normal school day.
The decision on which type of day we have on Friday will be made early Thursday evening.
Thank you for your cooperation and for supporting your children as we try to navigate this winter weather event safely together!
EMAIL TO FAMILIES ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2020
Now that the District has issued all students their own laptops or iPads, many have wondered how this might impact snow days. We’ve received questions asking, “If bad weather closes schools, will it be an online learning day for students?”
After obtaining input from students, teachers, and administrators and considering several logistical and practical obstacles, we have decided to handle weather-related closures in the traditional manner for this year. We will, however, consider alternate options if we have multi-day closures and the interruption to learning would be more significant.
When school closures, delays, or early dismissals occur, families will be notified, as well as the information being posted on our website, social media platforms, and across the local news outlets.
So, get your gear ready to safely enjoy the winter weather.