Montgomery County updated its COVID-19 guidance for schools on January 11th

On January 11th, the Cheltenham School District sent out an email to its families sharing details on the latest COVID-19 guidance from Montgomery County. The email read:

Today, the Montgomery County Office of Public Health (MCOPH) updated recommendations regarding COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, which align with those the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab issued this past week. We have followed guidance from these agencies throughout the pandemic, and continue to do so.

CHOP’s PolicyLab and MCOPH have stressed the importance of in-person education at this stage of the pandemic. Guided by science and evidence, they have continued to adapt their guidance to support public health and the goal of keeping schools open. CHOP medical professionals have stated the omicron variant is pervasive but mild in those who are vaccinated, and that schools should begin to move away from universal contact tracing and asymptomatic testing.

We realize that the Cheltenham School District isn’t the local school district, however, it is the only district in the area that we have seen that sent out information to its families on the updated policy and we thought it was important to show how a district is communicating about the updated guidance.

The updated policy does focus on keeping schools open. While there are benchmarks when schools can relax masking based on the level of community transmission, there are no such benchmarks to switch to hybrid or virtual learning.

The latest policy also encourages districts to stop testing of staff and students who are asymptomatic. From the guidance:

Effective Monday January 11, 2022, MCOPH recommends discontinuing required weekly assurance testing of asymptomatic of (sic) staff and students. If resources allow, offer voluntary participation in weekly assurance testing for children with special health care needs and those participating in high risk activities including sports, band and chorus.

Screening testing can be used to help evaluate and adjust prevention strategies and provide added protection for schools that are not able to provide optimal physical distance between students.

The update stresses vaccination as the key to keeping schools open when it states, “Achieving high levels of COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students as well as teachers, staff, and household members is one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely maintain full operations.”

On the same day the county released the new guidance, Governor Wolf was interviewed by a Pittsburgh radio station and stressed that the state was focusing on vaccination to fight COVID-19 and not shutdowns.

Based on the updated guidance and the statement from Governor Wolf, expect to see schools remain open unless something dramatically changes.