Merski chairs House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on instructing students during COVID-19

ERIE, Aug. 25 – Ensuring safe education during the pandemic was the topic of a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing chaired by state Rep. Bob Merski today at the state Capitol. 

Merski, D-Erie, requested the hearing to bring lawmakers up to date on school district preparedness and ongoing needs. 

“Many schools will be providing regular, in-class instruction as we begin the new year,” Merski said. “School administrators and educators have worked hard to put detailed safety plans in place; this hearing was an opportunity for us to hear details of those plans and also learn what actions we can take here in Harrisburg to ensure continuing school safety for the duration of the pandemic." 

Merski and other lawmakers heard testimony from:

  • Richard Emerick, superintendent of Fort LeBoeuf School District, and Ian Roberts, superintendent of Millcreek Township School District – Both officials testified about measures schools have implemented – including daily temperature checks, hand sanitization stations, reduced class sizes, reconfigured classrooms and staggered dismissal times, among other measures – to keep students and staff safe. 

  • Aaron Chapin, vice president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association – Chapin
    testified regarding PSEA’s recommendations for emergency legislation, including, among other measures, a bill Merski is co-sponsoring that would require notification and contact tracing if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.

  • Brian Polito, superintendent of Erie School District – Polito thanked lawmakers for the level state funding approved for the 2020-21 school year, which he said would enable schools to focus on safely educating students. But he also emphasized the severe impact the state’s inequitable funding formula has had on high-poverty urban school districts, such as Erie School District. He urged legislators to continue advocating for fair funding in urban school districts throughout the state to ensure the needs of high-risk students are met.

Video of the hearing is available here.