Noe Ortega, acting Pa. Education Secretary, speaks about updated Covid-19 guidance for schools during an online media briefing on Wednesday, March 7, 2021. (Source: Pa.gov)
Noe Ortega, acting Pa. Education Secretary, speaks about updated Covid-19 guidance for schools during an online media briefing on Wednesday, March 7, 2021. (Source: Pa.gov)

Pennsylvania Department of Health officials affirmed the department's recent updates to Covid-19 health guidelines for schools during a media conference on Wednesday, but stressed that districts have the freedom to make their own decisions.

Department of Education Deputy Secretary Matt Stem said that starting Monday, the updated guidance says that school districts in counties within the "moderate" category of Covid-19 may choose to move to fully in-person education; while those in the "substantial" category may choose to move to hybrid education.

Stem also mentioned the nearly $5 billion being allocated to Pennsylvania schools from the federal American Rescue Act, saying that about 20% of the funds would be going toward dealing with learning loss.

The funding will help support summer school and extended learning classes, both of which will extend for two to three additional years as funding allows, Stem said.

Stem; Dr. Wendy Braund, the Health Department's Covid-19 response director; and Noe Ortega, the education department's acting secretary all emphasized the importance of continuing mitigation efforts, including masks, handwashing and receiving the Covid-19 vaccine when available.

Olivia Smucker