State Health Department: Put Elementary School Kids Back in the Classroom

David Bjorkgren

State health officials now say it’s OK for elementary school kids to return to school, reports Stephanie Stahl for

The recommendation would go into effect Jan. 25, replacing a previous guidance that encouraged virtual learning for all students in communities with high COVID levels.

The recommendation is not mandatory and local schools still get to decide.

The state did not recommend that middle or high school students return to class.

The new health department guidance was criticized by the state’s largest teachers union, calling it “premature”, adding that better ways are needed to ensure health and safety guidance.

“The ability to provide in-person learning in a safe environment is extremely important,” Noe Ortega, the acting state education secretary, said.

While acknowledging that COVID-19 is still widespread in Pennsylvania, Ortega said elementary school students should be in class.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said COVID is less risky for elementary students and there’s no evidence the virus spreads widely in schools.

At the same time, the educational benefits of in-person learning for young children is very clear, she said.

Social distancing, masks and hygiene should still be enforced, she added.

Find out more about this new recommendation at