FAQs for the 2021-2022 School Year

Last updated 9.14.21

We understand that parents/guardians may have questions regarding the 2021-2022 school year. The list below includes frequently asked questions. We will continue to update this list as we receive additional guidance from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education.  

If there are questions you would still like to have the District consider after you review the information below, please CLICK HERE to submit your suggestions.

Q 1 – Is a doctor’s note a requirement for the medical exception from wearing a face covering?
A – While initial direction we received on this was, yes – follow the same process as last year which required a note from a doctor verifying the medical condition – recently, the DOH FAQ page adjusted that guidance. Until further clarity is provided by the DOH, a doctor’s note will not be required. Students who cannot wear mask due to a medical condition should provide a parent note explaining the medical condition and requesting exemption from this requirement.

9/6/21 Update: The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) provided the following direction on the process for handling mask exception requests: “It is recommended that any exemption 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.” As a result, the same process that we had used last year will be in place for the 2021-22 school year. (CLICK HERE to access the PDE information on the Order.)

Due to the timing of this Order and this clarification on the exemption request process, the District understands 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 signed notes to start the process the first week of implementation of the Order, recognizing that additional information will be needed from the student’s medical provider.

 

Q 2: What is the EASD face covering exemption process?
A:  This multi-step process identifies how a diagnosed medical condition impacts a student’s ability to wear a face covering in school. It includes the following steps:

  1. Parent/Guardian completes the EASD Face Covering Exemption Form.
  2. Parent/Guardian and doctor complete a signed medical certification documentation from a licensed physician with a clear diagnosis listed.
  3. Submit completed EASD Face Covering Exemption Form and medical certification documentation (steps 1 & 2) to the building principal.
  4. A District representative will contact the medical certification provider with any questions about medical needs and discuss next steps.
  5. A District representative will contact the parent/guardian to discuss how to proceed.

Q 3 – Will spectators at volleyball games be required to wear masks?
A – Yes.  Spectators fall under the category of guests or visitors which are required to wear a mask while in our school.

 

Q 4 – Are there fines for students and parents for not following the Department of Health Order?
A – No.  The fines and penalties are in reference to the teachers, administrators, and School Board members if the District fails to comply with the order. There are no fines to students or families.

 

Q 5 – Will students be removed from a classroom, starting Wednesday, September 15, for not wearing a face-covering?
A – No.  Until the state provides additional clarification on the face covering requirements and medical exemption requirements, we will not be removing student for non-compliance. Until clear guidance from the DOH or PDE is received, students who are not wearing a face-covering will be reminded of the expectation and asked to comply.

UPDATE 9/14/21 — In response to concerns associated with the Department of Health Mask Order medical exception process, the District is in the process of updating the EASD Mask Exception Form so that it does not include a medical records request, among other changes. For parents/guardians who have already completed the existing form, there is nothing more for them to do, unless they want to update their information on the new form, which will be available later this week. Parents/guardians who believe their 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, should complete the updated form.

As a result of this update, the deadline to submit forms to the child’s building office has been moved to Monday, September 20 instead of Wednesday, September 15 as previously shared. A date for when doctor’s notes are due will be established once the updated form is available.

 

Q 6 – Does this Order apply to vaccinated students and staff?
A – Yes.  The order is clear that it applies to everyone inside school buildings, regardless of vaccination status.

 

Q 7 – Can a parent submit a religious exemption for mask wearing?
A – No. There is currently no provision to allow an exception to the DOH Mask Order for religious beliefs.

 

Q 8 – Will the District be going back to virtual Wednesdays at the Middle School and High School?
A – No – there is currently no plan to alter the instructional modes and weekly schedule for instruction.

 

Q 9 – Will mask breaks be permitted during class at all levels?
A – Yes. Just like last year, there will be mask breaks administered for students. Additionally, this year, masks are not required for recess, gym class and related activities, and any other outside time.  Teachers are encouraged to periodically allow mask breaks during times when students are not moving around and are at least 3 feet apart.

 

Q 10 – Can face shields be used instead of masks?
A – At the end of last year, face shields were to be used only in situations 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 the week of September 7 or until we have further clarification, face shields will be permitted in place of masks.

 

Q 11 – Can a parent/guardian note work as a medical exemption for Tuesday, September 7, due to the timing of the Order?
A – Yes, in order to allow for a reasonable amount of time to complete the medical exemption process, a parent note for the first week (September 7-10) of this Order will be accepted.

 

Q 12 – What are the consequences for not wearing a mask?
A – 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.

 

Q 13 – Will a student be able to live-stream classes if he/she is required to isolate or quarantine?
A – This year we do not have the live-stream option. We do, however, still have the cameras and technology that will be used to connect students who are quarantined or isolated due to COVID.  The use of the cameras and technology will be up to the classroom teacher and will depend upon several factors like, age of students, content topic, and activities of the lessons missed.

 

Q 14 – How is the school district handling vaccinated vs. unvaccinated faculty/staff and students?
A – The school district is not keeping a record of vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals. The only time vaccination status may come up is when someone is identified as a close contact. Vaccinated individuals who have no symptoms do not have to quarantine.

 

Q 15 – How quickly could any of this change based on what the DOH/CDC recommends?
A – This is not something that we can predict.

 

Q 16 – If there is a huge outbreak, will there be any switch to remote learning?
A – We are hopeful that we can stay the course of offering learning modes that fit the needs of the student/family in a manner similar to last year. Any switch to remote learning for all would be a last resort response to an outbreak and done in close communication with stakeholders.

 

Q 17 – Are vaccine requirements in the future for Ephrata?
A – No, not in the foreseeable future. Our only role is to pass on information that we receive about vaccinations for those who are interested.

 

Q 18 – Why did EASD decide not to follow CDC in masking for K-12 schools?
A – The CDC guidance is for a broader audience and schools around the country. We always consult the CDC guidance and then work with local officials, the school board, families, and District Administration to make an informed decision for our context.

9/2/21 UPDATE – The District will be compliant with the mask Order issued by the PA Department of Health, which goes into effect September 7, 2021.

 

Q 19 – What parameters will be put in place to ensure that mask shaming does not occur if a student chooses to wear masks for their own safety and peace of mind?
A – All students will be supported in the mask decision that they make individually. Any bullying related to masks will be handled in the same way other forms of bullying are handled and should be reported to a teacher or school administrator.

 

Q 20 – Will a student who is vaccinated need to quarantine if he/she is identified as a close-contact?
A – No; If a child is fully vaccinated (can verify) and is showing no symptoms then he/she will not be forced to quarantine.

 

Q 21 – If a child or teacher suddenly begins to show mild symptoms while in class, what would be the recommended action to take?
A – If a child or a teacher is reporting symptoms, the recommended course of action would be for a school nurse to evaluate him/her and then recommend the next steps.

 

Q 22 – If the number of allowed students who test positive in a building is reached, will virtual classes be held? 
A – Yes. On the District COVID Dashboard, the number of COVID cases has been identified that, if reached, would identify a school for possible closure of in-person instruction.

 

Q 23 – If a student is isolated or placed in quarantine, will the teacher provide online learning as was done last year?
A – If a student is placed in isolation or quarantined, the student will communicate with the teacher(s) to plan for how he/she can stay engaged in the learning process.  This could and will include some synchronous online learning and some off line activities and assignments.

 

Q 24 – Do I need to report a COVID+ test result to the school?
A – Yes, COVID+ individuals are expected to let the school know of the diagnosis.

 

Q 25 – How will parents and the community be informed of the COVID case count in District buildings?
A – The COVID Dashboard with up-to-date case counts will continue to be maintained on the District website.

 

Q 26 – What information was used to inform the Health and Safety Plan, specifically for masking and social distancing?
A – We considered guidance from the CDC and recommendations from the PA Department of Health, along with parent feedback to develop our plan in the areas relating to masks and social distance.

 

Q 27 – What if Pennsylvania reinstates a mask mandate after June 28?
A – If the state reinstates a mask mandate or otherwise significantly changes their requirements placed on school districts, the District Health & Safety Plan will be reconsidered and adjusted to ensure the intent of the School Board Statement is continually represented.

Q 28 – During the school year, will “social distancing” still be required?
A – Maintaining an appropriate level of social-distance continues to be a priority of the District. The goal of 3 feet of social distance is the goal for all classroom activities.

 

Q 29 – How are you going to protect children under 12 if you’re not requiring masks?
A – Masks are optional for all students. Other mitigation strategies, including social distancing, increased airflow, elevated cleaning protocols, hand washing, and sanitation routines, will work together to protect all students, staff, and visitors within our learning environments.

9/2/21 UPDATE – The District will be compliant with the Mask Order issued by the PA Department of Health, which goes into effect September 7, 2021.

 

Q 30 – Will masks be required on buses to/from school?
A – The message emailed to all District families on August 3 included the following statement:  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. Our interest continues to be on having our bus drivers focus on safely driving our buses.

 

Q 31 – Will the school be requiring/conducting any COVID testing?
A – We have no plans of conducting any testing at this point.

 

Q 32 – If a student is exposed to a COVID+ person during the school day or from his/her own household, will he/she be required to quarantine if he/she is vaccinated?
A – Yes, the quarantine and isolation process is still in place and will operate in cooperation with the PA Department of Health.

 

Q 33  – Are you going to force students to wear a mask?
A – No, the decision to wear a mask will be up to the student.

9/2/21 UPDATE – The District will be compliant with the mask Order issued by the PA Department of Health, which goes into effect September 7, 2021.

 

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