State officials say that the decision to send elementary school students back to the classroom is up to school leaders.

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

HARRISBURG (KDKA) — The Pennsylvania Department of Education is updating its guidance to schools for the spring semester.

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The Department of Education’s Acting Secretary Noe Ortega made the announcement that they are recommending that especially elementary-age students return to the classroom in 2021.

“Beginning in the second semester, which typically begins around January 25, and as local conditions permit, schools are going to be encouraged to allow for elementary school students to return back to campus along with other targeted populations,” Ortega said. “We know that schools leaders continue to be the ones in the best position to make decisions about in-person instruction. So I want to emphasize that while these are not mandatory, it is up to school leaders to make a decision on whether or not local factors permit them to return elementary students to in-person instruction.”

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Ortega noted that the guidance is not mandatory but rather a recommendation. He stressed that schools will still have to implement ways to keep social distancing in the classrooms and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of the Department of Health, added that the benefits of in-person learning are “clear”, and that she believes that mitigation efforts instituted by schools will help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“The educational benefits of in-person learning, especially for younger children, are very clear from an educational perspective,” Levine said.

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The Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and Acting Secretary of Education started providing the update on learning models in the state of Pennsylvania amid the COVID-19 pandemic at 11:15 a.m. Thursday.