By CBS3 Staff

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — Students in the Lower Merion School District won’t go back to class on Monday, according to a letter from the district’s superintendent. Employees will be tested for COVID Monday to ensure adequate staffing and resources are available so students can return in-person.

If that’s the case, schools will reopen for full in-person instruction on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Masks will be required on school buses and in all district buildings.

Read the entire letter below.

Dear LMSD Families,

I hope you enjoyed a relaxing winter break. Although schools were closed, LMSD administrators have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and meeting with local health officials. As I stated in my communication prior to break, our goal is to continue in-person instruction as long as we can do so safely. Several developments over this past week have the potential to influence how we will be able to do that.

  • Incidence and positivity rates at both a county and district level appear to be higher than at any other point of the pandemic. Due to the shortage of COVID test appointments, more people are using at-home tests, which are not included in official case counts.
  • 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.
  • The CDC and the MCOPH issued new guidance regarding isolation/quarantine periods and reporting. The details on how schools will be required to report are not yet available, but the guidance does rely on accurate reporting of symptoms, testing opportunities and universal masking.
  • Given the high number of current reported cases, LMSD’s ability to conduct contact tracing and testing will be extremely taxed, if even possible.

Due to these developments, we are making some changes to our plan for the return to school.

Monday, January 3, 2022, there will be no school for students. All staff will report to work. LMSD will provide transportation to non-public schools. This change will enable LMSD to:

  • Assess our ability to staff schools and decide which schools, if any, may need to go virtual based on safety/supervision needs, taking into account staff (and potential substitutes) who are currently in isolation/quarantine or who may need to do so.
  • Conduct strategic testing of staff.
  • Update all nursing staff regarding the new reporting, quarantine/isolation guidelines and their role in managing the increased volume of questions and contact-tracing due to the current surge.
  • Confirm whether LMSD will have an adequate supply of COVID tests from MCOPH and enough certified test administrators to conduct testing in accordance with the updated guidance going forward.
  • Allow educators to prepare for the anticipated increase in numbers of students participating virtually in the coming weeks.

Beginning Tuesday, January 4, 2022, through Friday, January 14, 2022:

  • All schools will reopen for full in-person instruction if adequate staffing is available.
  • 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.
  • Masks will be required on school buses and in all District buildings.
  • All students will have the option to access their classes virtually.
    • Teachers will continue to focus on the students who are attending school, but students who are quarantined, awaiting test results, may be experiencing mild symptoms, etc. will be able to “listen in” from home.
    • Families must notify their schools and teachers if students will be attending virtually, so their attendance can be tracked correctly.
    • Teachers will provide additional information regarding virtual access on Monday.

We will continue to update you on any changes to this plan going forward. We know that changes do cause difficulties to families, but are grateful for your understanding and flexibility as we work to protect everyone’s health and safety under rapidly changing circumstances.

Sincerely,

Khalid N. Mumin, Ed.D.Superintendent of Schools