Central Bucks, Lower Merion, Pennsauken among school districts making changes due to COVID cases

Some schools are extending their winter break, while others are opting to go virtual.

File photo: Lower Merion High School (Image via Benofmerion/Wikimedia Commons)

File photo: Lower Merion High School (Image via Benofmerion/Wikimedia Commons)

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

Many schools in the Delaware Valley are closed Monday due to the winter storm, but others are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

School officials in districts across the Philadelphia region are worried cases will continue to rise after the holidays.

The Central Bucks School District, one of the largest in Pennsylvania, canceled classes on Monday. A message on the school district’s website mentioned the potential for snow on Monday, but most of the message was about expected staff absences due to COVID-19.

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A message posted Sunday night reads, in part, “At this hour, we have a significant number of staff who will be absent from work tomorrow across every school and operating division within our district. This has created an unprecedented need for substitute teachers that far exceeds the number available.”

District officials were meeting Monday to decide what to do for the remainder of the week.

In Montgomery County, Lower Merion School District has decided to extend its winter break, with no classes on Monday.

All staff will report to work.

The district says the recent developments in the ongoing pandemic led to its decision to delay students’ return.

“Incidence and positivity rates at both a county and district level appear to be higher than at any other point of the pandemic,” Dr. Khalid Mumin, Superintendent of Schools, said. “The virus is impacting both the unvaccinated and our highly vaccinated staff and students. Although vaccinated individuals do not typically develop serious illness, they still must isolate when infected.”

All Lower Merion schools will reopen for full in-person instructing “if adequate staffing is available.”

Officials say masks will be required on school buses and in all district buildings.

“All students and staff should continue to screen daily for symptoms of COVID-19 and should stay home and consult their healthcare provider if symptoms are present,” Mumin said.

All Lower Merion students will have the option to access their classes virtually.

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In Delaware County, Upper Darby School District officials announced Beverly Hills Middle School will go to online learning because of staff shortages due to the pandemic.

“We have assessed our current staffing information at the time of this communication, and we have a number of staff who have indicated they are either symptomatic, a close contact, or Covid-19 positive,” Daniel McGarry, Superintendent of Schools, said.

The district reports 16 teachers are out due to the virus.

All other schools in the Upper Darby School District remain opened for in-person learning on Monday.

“It is our goal to keep schools open for in-person instruction, but we are going to need everyone to support us,” McGarry said. “As we have stated since the beginning of this pandemic, there may be times when we must close a classroom and/or a particular school.”

District officials say they will reassess staffing for Beverly Hills Middle School again on Monday to make a decision for Tuesday.

The School District of Philadelphia expects all students to attend classes in-person starting Tuesday, January 4.

The District sent out a letter Saturday saying the decision was made with guidance from the city health department and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Embracing our students with caring educators and social-emotional supports in the school environments they know and love is the best way to further nurture their well-being as we enter the 2022 new year,” the district said.

Safety protocols will be in place.

They include mandatory masking, and a vaccine mandate for staff and student-athletes.

“As we all know, the pandemic is ever-changing, requiring all of us to be vigilant and flexible. We will continue to follow PDPH’s guidance on school operations, and keep you informed of any updates,” Philadelphia school district officials said.

Additionally, two South Jersey school districts are switching to virtual because of COVID cases.

Pennsauken Public Schools will operate on a fully remote schedule throughout this week.

“Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state and nationally, Pennsauken Public Schools will operate on a fully remote schedule from Monday, January 3, 2022 through Friday, January 7, 2022,” the district said.

In-person instruction will return on Monday, January 10.

On Dec. 29, Camden City School District announced all its schools will be remote starting January 3 through Friday, January 14.

“The rising number of COVID-19 and Omicron cases is of great concern for all of us and we believe full, remote learning is the right choice at this time,” Katrina McCombs, State District Superintendent, said.

The hope is to have classes resume in-person on January 18.

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