If a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, come in contact with someone who has tested positive, or become ill at school, District staff will follow processes developed in conjunction with Penn Medicine, WellSpan Health, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). Specific initial protocols will be used in each unique situation:
- SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19
- COVID-19 SYMPTOMATIC STUDENT/STAFF
- COVID-19 POSITIVE RESPONSE
- MANAGING INDIVIDUALS WAITING FOR TEST RESULTS
2020-2021 Online Learning and Modified Traditional Options
- Kindergarten – Grade 4 – posted 7.25.20
- Kindergarten – Grade 4 – updated 9.30.20
- Grades 5-6 – posted 7.25.20
- Grades 5-6 – updated 9.30.20
- Grades 7-8
- Grades 9-12
2020-2021 School Reopening Health & Safety Plan
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – March 31
We made it another month of school in one of the most unimaginable school years ever! While the days are getting warmer and longer, we are still not out of the woods yet. The ongoing vaccination process, along with some minor changes in how schools respond to COVID+ cases, have us all believing the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer.
Yesterday, March 30, the state reduced the number of minimum days a school needs to close for in-person instruction if the rolling 14-day threshold of COVID+ cases was reached. We are now permitted to close for two days. This effectively allows us to reset the count to zero each weekend, providing we close the building and conduct a thorough cleaning. It is our intent to implant this strategy any time we enter a weekend with cases on the Rolling 14-day Count for any building.
As we enter this four-day weekend, the Rolling 14-Day Count will reset to zero for all buildings, as well. For complete information on COVID-19 cases within the rolling 14-day count, please visit the COVID-19 Dashboard on the District website.
Throughout the break, please continue to use the COVIDReport@easdpa.org email account to inform the District of any situation where a student is tested or receives a positive COVID-19 test result. Those identified as close contacts to COVID+ cases over the long weekend will receive a call and email with information from the District that is specific to their case. The Department of Health will also be conducting contact tracing and will contact those impacted by positive cases. Building-wide messages will not be launched over the long weekend.
We want to again express our sincere appreciation for your support as we work together to keep our schools open, safe, and engaging for students since the start of the school year.
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – February 15
On Friday, January 29, the PA Department of Health (DOH) made a change to the minimum number of days districts must close schools when reaching the maximum threshold for COVID+ cases. The impact on how we have been managing situations at the Ephrata Area School District is described in the bullet points below.
Before getting into the details of this change, we wanted to take a moment and express our sincere appreciation for the efforts of our students, families, and staff members occurring within classrooms (traditional and virtual), at home, and throughout our EASD community. Since last March, and especially through the first five months of this school year, we have seen amazing displays of adaptability, flexibility, resilience, problem-solving, empathy, compassion, and grit from community members, parents, staff, and most impressively our students! Despite the many challenges, we are continually reminded of the promise of public education and convinced that the future is bright for EASD and each of our students.
As mentioned above, the PA DOH adjusted its recommendation for how many days district must close individual buildings to in-person instruction once that building reaches the maximum threshold for COVID+ cases. Information regarding this change can be viewed on the PDE website. There was some initial confusion on the details of how this change would impact districts in Lancaster County due to our arrangement with LGH/Penn Medicine. In the past few weeks, we have been advocating for the ability to continue working with local medical experts and completing the contact tracing work ourselves, all in an effort to minimize negative impact of this change on our students and families. To date, we have not received any relief from the PA Departments of Health or Education.
So far this year, we have been managing the occasional situation to use a single day closure when the lower end of the COVID+ threshold range is reached. District personnel have been able to complete all contact tracing, report those names to the Department of Health, and deep-clean the closed building within that one day in every situation. Nonetheless, the change by the PA DOH have forced us to make the following changes moving forward:
- We will be using the upper end of the range as the threshold that requires a closure to in-person instruction. That means if we reach four cases in an elementary school, six cases in the Intermediate or Middle schools, and 10 cases in the High School, we will be forced to close that building and move to online learning for all students for three calendar days.
- Additionally, we have been advised that we can count any day students are not in school as a part of that three-day shift, which includes Holidays, Staff Development Days, Saturdays, and Sundays for all grade-levels, as well as, Wednesdays for grades 7-12.
- There may be situations where a school is approaching the case threshold number at the end of a week where we may decide to move to virtual instruction on a Friday or Monday to accomplish a 3-day closure (including Saturday and Sunday) while only needing to move to online instruction for one school day.
- The COVID-19 Dashboard has been updated to reflect the higher thresholds and has been reset to zero for all buildings due to the 4-day Presidents Day weekend. You can see the Dashboard and the Rolling 14-Day Count for each building when you CLICK HERE.
Our goal remains to continue to provide appropriate in-person instructional opportunities in a safe and secure environment for all students to the greatest extent permissible. Thank you again for your ongoing support throughout the many changes we have had to navigate.
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – January 4
Happy New Year! We are happy to be able to reopen schools and continue to offer a variety of instructional modes for students in Kindergarten through Grade 12.
Before the holiday break, we notified you of the adjusted process we would use over the break for communicating close contact and quarantine information to families. We found the adjusted process to be efficient and often resulted in faster notification for families. As a result, we will continue to use this process for students in Grades 7-12 who are identified as close contacts as there are typically a higher number of close contacts in these grade levels due to building schedules.
Parents/guardians with children in Kindergarten through Grade 6 will continue to receive a phone call from their child’s building followed by an email with quarantine information specific to their child.
Starting this afternoon, we will again be providing daily updates on our online EASD COVID-19 case dashboard, which shows case-counts by building and indicates when a state-mandated shift to online learning for all students is required. The Dashboard will be updated every day school is in session. It includes the date range of the Rolling 14-Day count, the number of cases currently within that range, and the number of cases needed for each school to be required to shift to online learning.
Lastly, as a quick reminder, we are continuing to provide free breakfasts and lunches for the remainder of the school year. This includes all District students regardless of instructional mode, as well as all children in our community – ages 18 and under – who may not be enrolled at EASD. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Thank you again for your ongoing support of our work to keep students safe, healthy, and engaged in the learning process.
Holiday Break COVID Updates
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – December 23
The Ephrata Area School District staff would like to share best wishes for a safe and healthy holiday break. We are thankful for the success we have had by working together and keeping schools open throughout the past few months.
As we head into the long holiday break, we would like to remind you of the guidance from the state in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Health has strongly discouraged individuals from traveling outside of Pennsylvania voluntarily and encouraged us to avoid gatherings that combine households over the holiday break.
Please continue to use the COVIDReport@easdpa.org email account to inform the District of any situation where a student is tested or gets a positive result of a test for COVID-19. The District COVID webpage will be updated over the holiday break on December 26 and 29 and on January 2. These updates will include information about cases in all buildings and will replace the individual emails that have been sent to all families in a building. Those identified as close contacts to cases we are made aware of over the holiday break will receive an automated call and email with information from the District that is specific to their case. The Department of Health will also be conducting contact tracing and will contact those impacted by positive cases.
While school is closed to students over the break, deep cleaning will take place throughout the District facilities. As a result, when we return to school on Monday, January 4, the Rolling 14-Day Count will be at zero for all buildings.
We want to again express our sincere appreciation for your partnership in taking on the monumental task of keeping our schools open, safe, and engaging for students in the midst of this pandemic.
Together, we will see brighter days ahead in 2021!
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – December 7
Late on Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reduced the mandated length of quarantine for COVID-19 close contacts from 14 days to 10 days. More information on the updated state guidance can be found at this website.
We are notifying families with quarantined students who are now able return to school earlier than originally expected. Students who had a quarantine end date of Friday, December 11 or earlier, may return to school tomorrow, Tuesday, December 8, if they have been free of symptoms for 24 hours.
Additionally, the new guidelines include an option for close contacts to return to school after only 7 days of quarantine. This may happen if the student produces a negative COVID-19 test result after day 5 of quarantine and is symptom-free for 24 hours.
Lastly, our online EASD COVID-19 case dashboard shows our case-counts by building and indicates when a state-mandated shift to online learning for all students is required. The Dashboard will be updated every day school is in session and includes the date range of the Rolling 14-Day count, the number of cases currently within that range, and the number of cases needed for each school to be required to shift to online learning for all students.
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – December 4
Now that the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education have provided clear case-count thresholds that include mandatory shifts to online learning for all students in a given building, we have developed an online EASD COVID-19 case dashboard. The Dashboard will be updated every day school is in session and will include the date range of the Rolling 14-Day count, the number of cases currently within that range, and the number of cases needed for each school to be required to shift to online learning for all students.
While the state recommendations include multiple day closures in order for the Department of Health to complete contact tracing and to allow District staff to conduct thorough cleaning and disinfecting of areas affected by the case, at the Ephrata Area School District, we have been completing both of these requirements in less than 24 hours for every case so far this school year. As such, we are permitted to shift a building to online learning for all students for only one school day, which will be our plan moving forward.
As we have seen throughout this pandemic, we continue to learn more about effective prevention measures and the context of how COVID-19 is impacting our communities. Often these new insights necessitate changes in the rules of how schools, along with all other sectors of society, may operate. We are hopeful that by working together and adjusting to new requirements, we can continue to offer instructional modes that are safe for students and staff, engaging for all, and provide flexibility and choice for our student and parents.
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – November 28
The health and safety of our students and staff remain our top priority, and we are committed to transparency and open communication. Last week, the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education changed the process for tracking COVID-19 cases and have now required schools to move to 100 percent online when a specified number of cases is reached based on a 14-day rolling count. The number of cases that will initiate a move to online is based upon the size of the building. At the Ephrata Area School District, the respective buildings will temporarily move to online for all students in accordance to the chart below:
The complete list of requirements from the state can be found at THIS WEBSITE. As you will see, there are recommendations for the number of days a school should be closed to in-person instruction once the minimum number is reached, as well as a longer closure recommendation if a higher threshold of cases is reached. Also included in these requirements from the state is the important note that “If case investigations, contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfecting can be accomplished in a faster time frame, the length of closure time may be shortened.” So far this year, the completion of case investigations, contact tracing, and cleaning/disinfecting has been completed by our District staff in less than 24 hours for every COVID+ case.
Therefore, under this new set of state requirements and the current trend of COVID+ cases entering our schools, we do not anticipate an extended move to online-only learning in the near future. If state requirements or the amount of COVID+ cases significantly change – we will consider a longer-term move within a given building or the entire District to online learning.
Over the last three days of the Thanksgiving break, we have been notified of two additional COVID-19 cases – one individual at Ephrata High School and one at Ephrata Middle School who have tested positive. The individuals who were determined to be close contacts were immediately notified and are required to quarantine at home and away from others for 14 calendar days from the last time of presumed exposure.
This brings the 14-day rolling count to four at Ephrata High School and two at Ephrata Middle School.
According to the state requirements, the District is NOT initiating a move to online learning for any students in grades K-8, nor are we extending the shift to online learning for all High School students beyond Friday, December 4. We will continue to monitor all COVID-related situations and consult with the Department of Health as needed. Please know that we are doing everything possible to mitigate the risk of COVID in our schools. We continue to follow our Health and Safety Plan, rigorously clean and disinfect all schools and buses, and adhere to the steps outlined when a COVID+ situation arises. Please continue to use the COVIDReport@easdpa.org email account to inform the district of any situation where a student is tested or gets a positive result of a test for COVID-19.
As a reminder, if your child takes a COVID test for any reason, we require the child to stay out of school until the test results are returned or a doctor provides a note to clear the child to return to school. It is important to note that receiving a negative COVID test result while placed in quarantine does not allow a close contact to return to school or activities any sooner. Staff and students who return after a positive diagnosis or quarantine will be screened by a school nurse before entering classrooms. Additionally, please continue to screen your child for COVID symptoms before sending him or her to school.
Lastly, all Districtwide COVID-related communication and resources can be found on the COVID-19 page of our website, and parents/guardians are always welcome to contact our building principals or school nurses with any questions.
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – November 20
We are thankful for the emails recognizing the efforts of our staff to engage our students in the various instructional modes we have offered since the start of the school year. As we communicated earlier this week, the District is continually monitoring case information and considering if a shift to online learning for all students is in the best interests of the health, safety, and instructional needs of our staff and students.
Current case data as of the end of the day today shows only eight active cases: two at the High School, one at the Middle School, two at the Intermediate School, two at Fulton, and one at Clay. There are no active cases at Akron or Highland.
This week, we have evaluated more data and believe that the best decision at this time is to move Ephrata High School students to online learning for the week after Thanksgiving (December 1-4).
Several factors weighed heavily in the decision to move students in Grades 9-12 to online learning in a preemptive effort to increase the chance of staying open through the remainder of December.
- To date, over 230 students and staff members at Ephrata High School have been quarantined due to COVID cases, which is more than the other District buildings combined.
- The High School has had the highest number of quarantined students per case than any other building at 18. This means that on average, 18 people at the High School are quarantined every time we have a case. The average for the rest of the District is eight students per case.
- The High School seven-period schedule means students comingle more, which makes it more difficult to reduce their exposure when a COVID positive person enters the building.
- Data from Penn Medicine/LGH indicate that the number of cases seen in people between the ages of 15 and 19 are significantly higher than younger school-age children.
- High school students are more socially independent, may have drivers’ licenses, and are less supervised when they gather outside of school.
- High school students benefit more from independent, online learning than other grade levels benefit.
The current data does not warrant the shift to online learning for students in Kindergarten through Grade 8. However, we encourage you to monitor your email throughout the Thanksgiving break in case a change becomes necessary. If you have a child in Kindergarten through Grade 8, please make plans in the event we need to shift additional grade levels to online learning. We continue to be dedicated to offering the Modified Traditional Instructional Mode as long as we safely can.
Recently, several authorities, medical and otherwise, have commented on the safety of in-person instruction.
- On Thursday, a joint statement of Northeastern governors, including Pennsylvania Governor Wolf stated, “Medical research as well as the data from Northeastern states, from across the country, and from around the world make clear that in-person learning is safe when the appropriate protections are in place, even in communities with high transmission rates.”
- This sentiment was also emphasized by our partners at Penn Medicine/LGH last Friday when they stated, “Schools have done a tremendous job at limiting in-school spread. The community is more of a threat to them than they are to the community.”
- At a press conference on Thursday, November 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield stated, “For kids K-12, one of the safest places they can be…is to remain in school.” CLICK HERE to view his press briefing.
These next few weeks may be the biggest challenge of the year so far. If we all do our part over the Thanksgiving break — avoiding gatherings, wearing masks, maintaining 6 feet of distance, washing hands, and continually monitoring for symptoms — we can continue to offer the multiple instructional mode options as we have been. If we become less vigilant about these safety measures and allow an increase in COVID-19 cases within our schools, we may be forced to shift to online learning for all students.
We remind you of the importance of screening your child daily for COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical attention as needed. If your child is identified as a close contact due to activities outside of school, is quarantined, or tests positive for COVID-19, please inform District officials by using the newly established COVID reporting email address at COVIDReport@easdpa.org. Additionally, it is important that we all do our best to follow the orders released earlier this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Health about face coverings and traveling out of the state, which you can reference with the links below.
- Screening Your Child for Symptoms
- Universal Face Coverings Order FAQs
- COVID-19 Information for Travelers FAQs
Thank you for working together with the District to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all students and staff.
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – November 18
The District is committed to continuing to offer a variety of instructional modes as we have done since the start of the school year. The feedback from families has been predominantly positive, and parents have indicated that the instructional options are helping to meet their family’s needs. However, the increase in COVID+ cases that we have seen in the last few weeks, and the complications they have produced, is causing us to face the reality that we may need to, at some point, move to online. There are three situations which may cause a shift to online learning for all students.
- As a directive from the Governor or the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) – The DOH has indicated they do not plan a forced closure at this time. However, they are recommending it due to the current COVID testing positivity rate in Lancaster County.
- As a response to a sudden increase in the number of active cases, a series of connected cases, or an inability to properly staff a building or the entire District – The District has seen a gradual increase in COVID+ cases among students and staff. There are currently nine active cases, five of which will move to inactive by Friday. The biggest challenge currently facing the District is the number of unfilled positions due to staff members who test positive or must quarantine due to close contact with someone who has tested positive. We are currently averaging over 20 unfilled teacher positions over the past five days, and a shortage of substitutes is making it increasingly difficult to properly staff buildings, from classrooms to custodial to Food Service.
- As prevention against a potential outbreak due to a potential increase in COVID+ cases – Thanksgiving, despite strong warnings against it, could bring together friends and family, which has caused many health experts to be concerned this will lead to a spike in positive COVID cases in early December. In a typical year, cases of the flu and other communicable illnesses spike after the Thanksgiving holiday. Over the past six months, national and some local data show a spread of coronavirus in the week or so after holidays like July 4th, Labor Day, and Halloween. Additionally, most colleges and universities have adjusted their schedules so that students will return home for Thanksgiving and not return to campus until after the winter break. This adds unavoidable potential of the virus entering the homes of students and staff.
The Montgomery County (PA) Office of Public Health recently directed all schools in their county to move to virtual/remote learning only and suspend extracurricular activities for the 2-week period from Monday, November 23 through Sunday, December 6. They believe it is a proactive approach that will ultimately give schools a stronger chance at remaining in-person throughout the rest of December.
Presently, the Ephrata Area School District is considering a shift to online learning for all students. District families will be informed by the end of this week if the District is going to switch to online instruction for all students for the week after Thanksgiving. We wish to emphasize that it is important to make plans now if a switch to online learning for your child would require you to adjust your work schedule or find daytime supervision for your child.
We continue to monitor data, consult with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and prioritize the health and safety of students and staff. Please know that if we do cancel the Modified Traditional, in-person, mode of instruction for any length of time, it is in what we believe to be the best interests of our students and staff.
It is important for parents and students to stay vigilant in monitoring their own health for COVID symptoms and continuing to use prevention strategies when away from school to reduce the spread of the virus. Remember: If your child is having any symptoms that could be related to COVID-19, do not send him or her to school or any other group activity.
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) issued new COVID-19 orders. We are gathering more information and clarification about how these new orders will impact District activities. In the meantime, you may want to check out the DOH information about these new orders at the following links.
- Universal Face Coverings Order FAQs
- The District Health and Safety Plan approved by the School Board in July and AVAILABLE HERE mandates face coverings for all students and staff. Exceptions include “mask breaks” of less than 10 minutes or while eating.
- COVID-19 Information for Travelers FAQs
- Anyone traveling out-of-state from Pennsylvania must obtain a negative COVID test 72 hours before returning to the state or must quarantine for 14 days upon return.
We recognize the timing of this COVID order for travel does not come at a good time and may be difficult to adhere to immediately. If you have travel plans outside of Pennsylvania while this order is in effect, please contact your building principal to work out a plan for your trip.
Thank you for your continued support as we navigate through this unpredictable school year together.
Districtwide COVID-19 Update – November 11
This e-mail is to share some information relevant to the current spike in COVID-19 cases being seen across the country and within Lancaster County. At a meeting held Monday with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Lancaster County COVID-19 case data were reviewed along with information about the county moving from Moderate to Substantial in the Pennsylvania classification system. While it was suggested to more closely monitor the weekly data prior to districts making any significant changes, it was also recommended that every district across the county move to online learning for all students. It is important to note that COVID-19 case data is not tracked by school district boundaries.
The following represents up-to-date information – by the numbers – for the students, staff, and visitors of the Ephrata Area School District this school year:
- 4,900 – The approximate number of students, staff, and support employees who are involved physically or virtually on a daily basis for school operations
- 48 – The number of school days so far this year
- 27 – The number of COVID+ cases within a building or district activity since the first day of school in late August
- 10 – The number of active cases in the District, as of the end of the day today (3 moving to inactive by this Friday)
- 3 – The number cases indicating that close contact at school activities MAY have contributed to the spread of COVID-19
Based on the District COVID+ case data, we do not plan to shift to online learning for all Ephrata Area School District students at this time. We will continue to monitor case data and consult with the Pennsylvania Department of Health while we proceed with offering our current instructional mode options: Modified Traditional, Online Learning, and the Ephrata Virtual Academy. Additionally, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety measures put in place to protect students and staff from spreading the virus and maintain regular communication with the families and staff in each building when cases occur.
It is important for parents and students to stay vigilant in monitoring their own health for symptoms and continuing to use prevention strategies when away from school. We do not want to learn the hard way about how important monitoring symptoms, using face coverings, and maintaining 6-feet of social distance can be to control the spread of COVID-19.
Remember: If your child is having any symptoms that could be related to COVID-19, do not send them to school or any other group activity.
While we are hopeful to be able to continue to offer our instructional mode options for the remainder of the year, the reality is that there may be a time when we see the need or are directed to move to online learning for all students. We recognize that schools not being physically open for students causes a significant hardship for many families. This is one of the primary reasons why we are committed to offering the Modified Traditional option for as long as it is safe. However, we do suggest that families begin to consider options and make potential plans if their child’s school moves to online only.
Thank you for your continued efforts to monitor your child for symptoms and for your flexibility as we continue to navigate through this unpredictable school year.
New Athletic Spectator Information – October 8
Earlier this week, Governor Wolf released new guidelines on gatherings, including athletic events. The limits are based on a percentage of venue capacity, whether inside or outside, and offer us the opportunity to allow more fans to attend events and cheer on our Mountaineers.
The remaining athletic events in the fall season will follow these guidelines. Face coverings and social distance will be enforced in all settings in accordance with existing state recommendations.
- Approximately 475 spectators will be permitted, which will include the homecoming court and senior students.
- There will be a sign-up sheet for seniors who wish to attend.
- Ticket distribution to the families of our players, cheerleaders, and marching band members will be handled by the Athletic Director and Head Coach / Director for each respective group.
- No visiting fans will be permitted.
- Approximately 105 spectators will be permitted, including spectators for the visiting team.
- Ticket distribution to the families of our players will be handled by the Athletic Director and Head Coach.
- No spectators will be permitted at the League Championships on October 20 and 21 at Ephrata Middle School.
Field Hockey and Girls’ and Boys’ Soccer
- The number of spectators at these sporting events has not been strongly impacted to date by state guidelines. These new calculations allow us to welcome 300 guests to these events.
Livestreaming of some athletic events is available on the EASD EVENTS LIVESTREAM. In addition, Blue Ridge 11 will be broadcasting a variety of sporting events within their coverage area.
PLEASE NOTE: Other school districts may have different rules in place. Please be sure you understand those rules if you choose to be a spectator at an away event when permitted.