READING, Pa. – The Reading School Board heard a presentation Wednesday on a proposed COVID-19 health and safety plan for the 2021-22 school year.
Chief Legal Officer Jesse Leisawitz said districts must submit a plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Education by July 30 as a requirement of the American Rescue Plan Act.
Districts must submit the plan in order to receive the federal elementary and secondary emergency relief funds.
The American Rescue Plan Act is the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief funding, which has allocated $80 million to Berks County school districts.
The Reading School District is expected to receive $51.7 million from the funding.
The school board will have to approve the plan next week at its regular voting meeting because the board does not meet during the month of July.
Leisawitz stressed that the proposed plan does not speak to the models of instruction such as hybrid or remote learning.
"That issue is not before the board," Leisawitz said. :The issues we have to consider are the ways we are still following CDC guidance and continuity of service."
Anne Fisher, director of student supports and school health, said the district had to answer three questions to complete the plan.
The first question: How will the district support prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the CDC for the reopening of school facilities in order to continuously open and operate schools for in person learning?
The plan states the district will continue to:
- Follow the current board-approved health and safety plan through the summer of 2021 and will follow all updated guidance from the CDC for the safe reopening of school facilities.
- Complete building/facilities improvements related specifically to air quality and ventilation, including in-room purification systems in every occupied space and contracting with HVAC specialists to analyze ventilation and air flows.
- Participate in COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
The second question: How will the district ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address the students' academic needs and students' and staff members' social, emotional, mental health and other needs?
Fisher said the district is providing:
- In-person extended school year, compensatory education camps, summer school programs and kindergarten/first grade boot camp to all eligible students whose parents or guardians wish for them to participate.
- Internet access for students completing online credit recovery programs in collaboration with Comcast and T-Mobile.
- Ongoing referral to employee assistance programs for staff and community mental health resources for students.
- Ongoing trauma-informed school practices and training.
- Ongoing crisis response as needed.
- School nursing coverage to provide continued case management and contact tracing of students who test positive for COVID-19.
- Meal distribution at designated pickup sites, as well as coordination of meal delivery to at-risk students and their families.
- Implementation of flexible instructional days, pending Pennsylvania Department of Education approval.
The third question asks the district to explain how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators and other staff.
Fisher said the district will continue following the current health and safety plan as it relates to mask-wearing, physical distancing, handwashing, cleaning, contact tracing, diagnostic and screen testing, and accommodations for students with disabilities through Aug. 25, 2021.
Revisions to the plan will be based on guidance from the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The plan also states that a district vaccination clinic will be available for student and community vaccinations beginning in August, based on needs.
Related to the safety plan, the board will also be asked to approve contracts for ventilation and air-quality improvements, including:
- A $126,818 one-year contract with Johnson Controls Inc., Allentown, for the assistance with building automation controls.
- A contract for a districtwide HVAC maintenance work order and air exchange project to M&M Facility LLC, Douglassville, for rates of $110 per hour for technicians and $65 per hour for assistants.
- A $125,600 one-year contract to CM3 Building Solutions, Fort Washington, for assistance with building automation.