North Allegheny schools are moving more toward a pre-Covid world under a health and safety plan for the 2022-23 school year approved by the North Allegheny School Board on Aug. 17.
There will be no further contact tracing or case investigation, according to Dr. Melissa Freese, NA Superintendent of Schools. Social distancing will not be required in classrooms, meetings, hallways, and the like.
At lunchtime, however, there will be sections for those who prefer the extra space.
Much less restrictive measures were introduced last school year, including making masks optional but highly recommended from February 22.
Although full investigation and contact tracing of COVID cases will no longer be conducted, staff and students are asked to report positive cases of COVID-19 for attendance purposes.
A COVID-19 tracker will remain on the school district’s website and will be updated each weekday with new confirmed cases and case totals.
Students and staff are encouraged to follow good hand washing and hygiene practices.
There will be frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas throughout the school day, and HVAC systems will be set to increase air circulation and improved air filters will be used where practical, according to the report. Filters will be changed every month.
The school district will continue to provide disinfectant wipes for staff. And the water fountains will be accessible and cleaned throughout the day. School buses will also be cleaned regularly, and when possible, windows will be opened to increase air circulation, according to the plan.
Regarding athletic games or other activities, NASD athletics will follow the protocols of the district, the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League, and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.
If a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, the district will follow confidentiality practices and applicable health department protocol and guidelines for quarantine and/or isolation. To report a positive test, the student or team members will need to complete a form that will be used to properly mark attendance.
NASD has hosted six on-site vaccination clinics for staff, students and community members since 2021. And continues to receive regular updates on COVID-19 in Allegheny County and from the Allegheny County Health Department.
Freeze said that in the event of increased cases, the administration and school board have no intention of closing schools if they can avoid it. She pointed out that NA did not pass remotely last year.
Families continue to have the options of NA Cyber Academy, an asynchronous online K-12 school within the school district.
The America Rescue Plan Act requires each local education agency that receives funding from the plan’s Elementary and Middle School Emergency Fund to develop and make publicly available on the education agency’s website a health and safety plan, according to Friez.
The 2022-2023 health and safety plan was amended to specify that only the school board can update the policy.
This amendment was made following public comment from Brendan O’Donnell of McCandless, who noted that the health and safety plan did not include who was responsible for the modifications.
He suggested that only the board approve the modifications, and such language should be included in the plan for “clarity and certainty for all.”
“This document will not be updated again without a board vote. It will not be updated by the administration,” Freese said.
The report is posted online at www.northallegheny.org.
Natalie Beneviat is a Trib Total Media contributor.