North Allegheny schools are going back to more of 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 more contact tracing or investigation of cases, according to Dr. Melissa Friez, NA superintendent of schools. Social distancing will not be required in classrooms, assemblies, hallways and the like.
However, there will be sections during lunch for those who prefer the extra space.
Many less-restrictive actions were put in place last school year, including making masks optional, but strongly recommended, since Feb. 22.
While complete investigation and contact tracing of COVID cases will no longer take place, staff and students are asked to report positive COVID-19 cases for attendance purposes.
A COVID-19 tracker will remain on the school district website and will be updated each weekday with new confirmed cases and a total number of cases.
Students and staff are encouraged to follow good handwashing 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 turnover, and enhanced air filters will be used where practical, according to the report. Filters will be changed monthly.
The school district will continue to provide disinfecting wipes for staff. And water fountains will be available and cleaned throughout the day. School buses will also be cleaned regularly, and when feasible, windows will be opened to increase air circulation, according to the plan.
As far as athletic games or other activities, NASD athletics will follow the district, Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League, and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association protocols.
If a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, the district will follow confidential practices and applicable health department protocol and guidance on quarantine, and/or isolation. To report a positive test, the student or staff members will be required to complete a form that will be used to mark attendance correctly.
NASD has hosted six vaccination clinics on site for staff, students, and community members since 2021. And it continues to receive regular updates on COVID-19 in Allegheny County and from the Allegheny County Health Department.
Friez said in the case of elevated cases, administration and the school board do not intend to close schools if they can avoid it. She pointed out NA did not go remote at any time last year.
Families continue to have the options of the NA Cyber Academy, a kindergarten through 12th grade asynchronous online school within the school district.
The American Rescue Plan Act requires each local education agency that receives funding under the plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief 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 after a public comment from Brendan O’Donnell, of McCandless, who noted that the health and safety plan did not include who is responsible for modifications.
He suggested that only the board approve modifications, and such language should be inserted into 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 administration,” Friez said.
The report is posted online at www.northallegheny.org.
Natalie Beneviat is a Trib Total Media contributing writer.