Bethlehem’s Liberty High School is switching to all virtual learning until April 6 after 13 coronavirus cases over the last two weeks.
Liberty learned of three new COVID-19 cases on Monday, triggering a Pennsylvania Department of Education mandated school closure and pause of student activities, Principal Harrison Bailey III said in a letter to parents and students.
The high school will pivot to fully virtual learning Tuesday and Wednesday. Schools are already scheduled to be closed Thursday, Friday and Monday for the Easter holiday.
Liberty’s hybrid schedule and student activities will resume on April 6, according to Bailey’s letter.
“Although we do not have evidence that our positive cases are the result of spread within our school, we will continue to monitor and investigate any leads,” Bailey wrote in the letter. “Finally, I ask for parent support for reinforcing with students that social distancing and masking are maintained during outside-of-school activities and socializing. We have seen a significant increase of student cases at middle and high schools in the past two weeks as the weather improves and community activities take place.”
Bethlehem Area School District’s two high schools have 16 active cases over the last two weeks, while the four middle schools report 12 new infections. East Hills Middle School was forced to switch to virtual learning last Thursday and Friday due to its new cases.
The education department requires schools temporarily close when they hit certain case thresholds, which are determined based on community spread of the virus and the number of new infections over the last two weeks. Schools also must track whether a person was in a school building two days prior to the onset of symptoms.
Liberty has more than 10 cases that meet the closure criteria, Bailey said.
The state recommends a school of Liberty’s size close for two weeks if they have 11 or more new cases and high community spread. But its guidance allows schools to shorten the closure if case investigations, contact tracing and disinfecting can happen more quickly.
The Bethlehem Health Bureau worked with Liberty to determine the proper closure length, Bailey said.
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Sara K. Satullo may be reached at email@example.com.