NAZARETH, Pa. – The Nazareth Area School Board on Tuesday evening agreed to have its president and superintendent sign a formal letter of attestation from the state, stating that the district is complying with coronavirus safety measures and protocols for in-person instruction.
The attestation form was announced on Monday as part of Gov. Tom Wolf's updated mitigation measures in counties where there is a "substantial" transmission level for the virus. Northampton County is among the 59 counties at this level for at least two consecutive weeks.
District Superintendent Dennis Riker said the attestation document states that if the district is unable to follow its safety plan as outlined, then it must agree to suspend its current hybrid model of instruction for an all-virtual format districtwide.
Riker said that his administration and personnel have very closely followed the district's health and safety plan, which was required last spring following the initial shutdown of schools at the end of March.
He credits the plan and contract tracing efforts in preventing Nazareth from having any virus infections transmitted from one student to another.
He added that the several cases the district recently discovered, which resulted in shutting down its high school and one elementary school for 14 days each, were attributed to infections acquired outside district properties.
In addition, the handful of cases the district has experienced so far involved students living in separate households, he said.
With regard to potential COVID-19 infections, "Our schools are the safest places for our staff and students to be in," Riker stated.
If the board would not have unanimously agreed to support the attestation document by this Monday, Nov. 30, the state would have required its teachers on Dec. 1 to instruct via an all-online format, and all sporting events and practices would cease immediately.
In addition to the required attestation form, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has revised its school shutdown requirements, now basing it on the number of positive cases within a school's total student enrollment number.
As a result, the total allowable case count prior to a building shutdown for Nazareth's high school and intermediate school has increased from two to 11 positive cases detected per 900 students enrolled.
Board President Linda Stubits and Riker said all district personnel are working hard to keep schools safe, and every possible precaution is being taken to promote such an environment.