District uses policies, procedures to prevent spread of COVID-19 in schools

The district is using contact tracing procedures and following Montgomery County guidelines. The Pa. Department of Education has also outlined rules for in-person schooling.


Staying Safe…by regularly cleaning his hands and practicing social distancing, senior Steven Wicher is taking preventative measures to not catch COVID-19. Souderton is the only school district in Montgomery County that has done a full return to in-person learning for students. Arrowhead Photo by Charlton Allen

By adhering to the guidelines set by the county and health department, the school district is preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools to maintain 5-day in-person learning.
According to Principal Sam Varano, there has been one transmission of COVID-19 in the high school this year.
The schools rely on contact tracing protocols to prevent any spread of COVID-19 by quarantining any students in contact with a COVID positive person.
“If we hear of a student that tested positive for COVID, one of the nurses calls them and we trace back two days from when their symptoms first started,” nurse Bonnie Miller said.
The administration uses seating charts from classrooms and lunch to ensure all close contacts of a student are quarantined.
“[The close contacts] are quarantined for 10 days. If they get a negative COVID test on or after the fifth day, they can return as early as the seventh day,” Varano said.
The CDC defines close contacts at less than six feet of distance while wearing masks for 15 or more minutes with a COVID positive person.
The Pa. Department of Education has also outlined a plan for school closures, in cases of substantial in-school transmission.
According to Superintendent Frank Gallagher, there has been no evidence of substantial in-school transmission in Souderton.
The Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU) agrees with this, and has not seen substantial in-school transmission in any Montgomery County districts.
“[There has been no substantial transmission in Montgomery County schools] that I’m aware of,” Community and Government Relations Director Tina Viletto said. “I know that there have been incidents of cases in quarantine, but what I have been hearing from the department of health is that it is related to out of school activities.”
Viletto is employed by the MCIU, which meets with school superintendents at least twice a week to discuss their districts and COVID-19.
For senior Magen Swartley, she felt unsafe in school with rising community positivity rates and family members at risk at home. Swartley stayed at home for a brief period surrounding winter break due to the surge in cases.
Swartley believes it is difficult to justify full-return to school because students may not take the pandemic seriously.
“You have to go to work, you have to go to school, but you have to stay home and you can’t see your friends or do anything that you enjoy and that is a really hard thing to justify,” Swartley said.
She believes that many students will continue to see their friends outside of school because “[they] see each other in school anyways, [they] might as well hang out.”
However, Varano believes that keeping students in school will prevent them from gathering and spreading COVID-19.
“It seems that the safest place to be is in school. Kids are getting it, but they are not transmitting it in school,” Varano said. “We’re trying to do what’s good for students and teachers. We are trying to survive and, hopefully, thrive.”