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Feb 8 - Update from Superintendent

Feb 8 - Update from Superintendent
Posted on 02/08/2021

Dear School Community,

Bringing back more students for in-person learning continues as a major discussion topic at a local, state and national level. Second only to the health and safety of the school community, returning our students for in-person learning has been our top priority and goal throughout the pandemic. 


Currently, there are several factors emerging that are prompting us to believe that we may be able to achieve our goal in the near future. Although there is NO DEFINITIVE TIMELINE, I do believe that we will start to welcome more students at some point in March. As with other issues, we work tirelessly so that we can proactively plan to pivot efficiently and effectively when opportunities arise. In this particular case, we are in the process of planning; however, we need our community to understand that bringing students back under the current circumstances doesn’t happen by flipping a switch. Instead, we continue to seek clarification from the health department as changes occur in real time, just as we work through how these changes affect our educational programming, facilities, transportation, food services, extracurricular activities, etc.


Again, we anticipate changes are coming, but as of today, we are still operating under the same health precautions that have dictated our instructional delivery approach for the last several weeks. If and when changes occur, I will communicate with the school community providing definitive plans and timelines. I know patience is already thin, but I appreciate your cooperation and flexibility!


Below is more information on the emerging factors that have prompted us to ramp up planning for more in person learning. The categories include (1)  Changes to Guidance from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education; (2) Reduction in Infection Rates and Emerging Data on Transmission in Schools; (3) Additional Health Precautions; and (4) Vaccinations for Educators.


Changes to Guidance from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education

We recently received revisions from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education related to “Recommendations for Pre-K to 12 Schools Following Identification of a Case(s) of COVID-19” and its associated attestation. The change, which is a result of the PA Department of Health being unable to complete the public health protocols of contact tracing and case investigation faster than what is indicated in the guidance, mandates that “schools within a county or municipal health department (CMHD) jurisdiction should work with their local health department when responding to cases of COVID-19 in a school setting, to determine whether they have capacity to complete necessary case investigation and contact tracing in a shorter time frame.” Since Delaware County uses the Chester County Health Department as its health authority, the local health department will now oversee school closures due to COVID-19 cases. For more information about this change, please see the PDE website–click here


So what does this revision mean for Garnet Valley:

  • Schools will continue to report all probable and positive cases to the CCHD.
  • Chester County Health Department will provide recommendations for school closures with a focus on linked cases.
    • With appropriate contact notification being done by schools, if additional individuals become positive while in quarantine, a move to virtual learning (“closure”) may not be warranted (the Health Department will provide closure guidance if needed)
    • If additional individuals become positive who were NOT initially identified as a close contact but are possibly linked, the Health Department will assess if cohorts are required to move to virtual learning (“closure) and/or additional individuals need to be quarantined.

Reduction in Infection Rates and Emerging Data on Transmission in Schools

Delaware County’s infection rates continue to decline. Over the last month, incidence rates have gone from 261.32 per 100,000 to 131.10, while the percentage of positive PCR positivity has dropped from 10.22% to 7.53%. Locally, within the Garnet Valley attendance boundaries, our positive test counts have gone from  73 to 46 in the last month and although the most current week is not posted, our incidence rates per 100,000 over a three week period of time have declined from a high of 253 to 215. 


Along with the declines in cases, there have been several articles depicting how well the health precautions are being followed in schools and how it has kept transmission between students and teachers at a minimum. We continue to hear that the CDC will release more information on this topic and we look forward to reading it.


Additional Health Precautions 

Many of you have heard that part of President Biden’s goal of opening schools within his first 100 days in office relies on extensive coronavirus testing. I’m proud and humbled that our district, along with other regional districts, will be among the first to implement weekly assurance testing for asymptomatic employees and symptomatic students and adults.  Known as assurance testing, this process tests an entire population for the virus several times over a specific period and utilizes both the BinaxNOW and Cue COVID 19 testing technologies. I believe strongly that this testing will give us yet another health precaution to protect our school community against spread of the virus. 


Last week, we began by piloting the process at Concord Elementary School. We tested over 130 employees with no positive results. We plan to begin testing the remainder of our employees this week and will slowly increase assurance testing for students as well. As we expand the testing to more groups of students, as well as for individuals exhibiting symptoms while in our buildings, we will ask parents to sign a consent waiver. We will share more information about student testing in the coming days and weeks ahead. 



It is unlikely that vaccinations will be available for educators soon. Garnet Valley remains a potential point of delivery for the vaccine, but the supply remains limited. Despite everyone’s advocacy, Delaware County continues to vaccinate groups in Phase 1A, which include individuals 65 and older and individuals between the ages of 16-64 with certain medical conditions. Based on the current progress, I do not believe vaccinations will truly assist with reopening schools until the next academic year. I hope I’m wrong and supply will increase significantly, but we are not depending on it for our planning.


Again, as more information becomes available, I will be sure to communicate and explain its implications. Have a great rest of your day!



Dr. Marc Bertrando, Superintendent

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