LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Education has announced that students can return to their classrooms starting July 1.
School administrators in our area have been waiting for some kind of guidance from the state that would help them answer the question so many students and parents have: what will school look like come fall?
Just because the state has now said in-person instruction can come back, it doesn't mean online learning will be going away next school year.
Students at Valley View High School in Archbald were able to empty out their lockers this week, an unceremonious way to end an unusual year of school.
But the Pennsylvania Department of Education now says classroom learning can return for the start of next school year and it's welcome news for these students.
"It's kind of exciting to go back, but it's also kind of nerve-wracking because we're also going to have to social distance and be ready for the fall semester," said junior Joseph Desuza.
"It's going to be weird, but it's going to be a big step. To be honest, I will feel more confident in my grades and going more forward instead of backward," said junior Samuel Hernandez.
State officials made it clear that it won't be business as usual.
In an online news conference, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera explained that schools will still have to follow social distancing guidelines when they open back up.
"What the guidance is going to provide is, with a little more specificity, how much room should exist, how much space should there be between students in the classroom and other individuals within that classroom as well," Rivera said.
Some school districts may have to keep some students home and learning online to meet the guidelines.
For the Abington Heights School District, Superintendent Michael Mahon says it's considering staggering student schedules if necessary. Either way, it's going to be a long summer of planning.
"We're finishing up school on Monday next week, and we're just going to pivot to focus all of our energies on opening up for the fall. The guidelines, they help us along the way. It's very clear that many decisions are going to be local decisions, and a lot of this we're going to have to figure out as individual school districts," Mahon said.
The state also provided guidelines for colleges and universities in Pennsylvania as well. They can go back to in-person instruction as early as Friday while still meeting the guidelines set out by the state.