Pennsylvania Cancels Standardized Tests

Get the latest on how coronavirus is impacting education in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware schools

UPDATE MARCH 20: Pennslyvania has canceled all of its standardized testing for this year in light of the coronavirus that has closed the state's schools for at least one more week.

Students were scheduled to take the PSSA tests in April and the Keystone exams in May. New Jersey says it is discussing the status of its testing with the federal department of education.

UPDATE MARCH 16: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that all New Jersey schools will close starting Wednesday and won't reopen until "it's deemed by health officials to be safe for in-person classes to resume."

Pennsylvania and Delaware announced two-week closures of its schools on Friday.

Murphy also banned all gatherings of more than 50 people.

Monday afternoon Mayor Jim Kenney ordered all non-essential businesses in the city to close as of 5pm. Several categories of businesses are being deemed essential, including daycare centers, and so can remain open. 

UPDATE MARCH 16: On Sunday night the CDC recommended the cancelation of all gatherings of more than 50 people for eight weeks, but specified that it does not apply to schools, colleges or businesses. It also notes that their guidance does not replace what local health authorties decide.

Gov. Tom Wolf closed all Pennsylvania schools for two weeks on Friday and Sunday night ordered bars and restaurants in suburban Pennsylvania (Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties) to stop dine-in service for two weeks. Delaware's Gov. Carney has also closed that state's schools for two weeks.

Many New Jersey schools have already decided to close, but it is expected Gov. Murphy could announce the closure of all schools today.

UPDATE, MARCH 13: Governor Tom Wolf has ordered all Pennsylvania schools to close for two weeks. The announcement was followed a short time later by President Trump declaring a national emergency, which makes $50 billion available to fight the coronavirus. He also said there are plans to offer drive-through testing.

The decision the close Pennsylvania's schools cam after Philadelphia public schools announced they would be closed until March 27. 

"Though the School District of Philadelphia still does NOT have any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in schools or offices, this closure has become necessary as many SDP employees who reside in neighboring counties are being asked to avoid non-essential travel and to not report to work," the district said. "This is creating a significant staffing challenge for our schools."

Bucks County and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had also earlier announced two-week closures. Catholic schools said they will use online instruction where "teachers will provide ongoing assignments, educational support and availability for student questions and interaction through an online learning management system."

The Inquirer reported Friday afternoon that Gov. Phil Murphy says school closures there are "an inevitability."

UPDATE, MARCH 12: Governor Wolf has ordered all Montgomery County Schools to close for two weeks in the most dramatic set of school closings yet in response to the coronavirus.

The closure includes day care centers. He also is recommending non-essential retail businesses in Montgomery County close and that residents across the state not go to recreational places like gyms, movie theaters or malls.

 Statewide, the governor "strongly encourages the suspension of large gatherings, events, conferences of 250 individuals or more," according to a press release.

Pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations will remain open in Montgomery County, which has 13 of the state's 22 presumptive cases of coronavirus. 

EARLIER STORY: Two suburban Philadelphia-area school districts announced school closures Monday in order to clean schools due to coronavirus concerns.

Lower Merion School District said the two students and staff member may have been exposed to the virus during visits to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's King of Prussia office. The Inquirer reported that a cardiologist working at that office tested positive for the virus and is hospitalized.

Lower Merion said the students and staffer are not showing any symptoms but schools will be closed Tuesday for "additional sanitizing."

Cheltenham School Disrict said a parent placed herself and her child in self-quarantine because she was a caregiver to someone who has a presumptive case of COVID-19. Its schools will be closed for the rest of the week for cleaning. It has also cancelled all field trips until April 13, after spring break.

There have been seven cases of coronavirus in Montgomery County, which includes both Cheltenham and Lower Merion school districts. Two of the cases are a Lower Merion couple who traveled outside the country and, as of Sunday, had mild symptoms and not been hospitalized.

The school closures came as Central Bucks School District in Bucks County reopened its schools Monday, having closed them on Friday for cleaning after it learned several school community members may have been exposed to a person with the virus who came from out of state to a gathering at a private residence. Tests, however, came back negative on the local residents.

The coronavirus appears, so far, to be very mild in children, but it is not yet clear whether they can transmit the disease.

Cheltenham school officials said the state plans to begin having weekly conference calls with school superintendents to discuss things such as athletics, PSSA tests and the 180-day day rule, set to identify when missed school days must be made up at the end of the school year.

Meanwhile, it plans to hold assemblies for students when they return to emphasize proper hygiene habits, including handwashing and face touching.

Categories: Health, News & Views