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As Many Schools Move To Remote Learning, A Few Stick With In-Person Classes

In this video posted on Facebook on Dec. 7, 2020, Warren County Superintendent Amy Stewart explains the district's decision to move to virtual learning beginning Dec. 9, 2020.

While many school districts in Pennsylvania are moving to remote learning as COVID-19 cases rise, some central Pennsylvania districts are keeping classes in person, at least for now.

“We’re at a point with the consequences of COVID and Thanksgiving that we don’t have enough employees to be able to be offering in-person instruction across the district," said Warren County School District Superintendent Amy Stewart, announcing her district’s move to virtual learning. It will continue at least through the end of January.

Other districts that had been trying to continue with in-person learning are making similar decisions. The State College Area School District had been teaching remotely after the Thanksgiving holiday. But the district had been looking to return to classrooms this coming Monday.

Instead, rising case numbers means they’ll stay remote until at least Jan. 11.

"To put our situation in perspective, during the first 92 days of the school year, we had 48 positive cases among employees and students. By contrast, in the past 10 days, we have had 49 new positive cases — a 10-fold increase in our daily cases," said Superintendent Bob O'Donnell in a message to the district announcing the decision.

In McKean County, the Kane Area School District also pointed to rising COVID-19 case numbers in its decision to move to remote learning — at least for the rest of this week.

"While we know remote learning is not optimal, we are working hard to ensure a high-quality learning experience for all students and that connections between and among students and teachers continue," the message from Superintendent Brock Benson reads.

McKean County had 894 known COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Health. That's up from 525 the week before.

But, the nearby St. Marys School District in Elk County is sticking with in-person learning for now. That means signing off on state departments of Health and Education guidelines.

Superintendent Brian Toth said they had already been taking the required steps.

“We’re doing this anyway," Toth said. "There’s no harm in signing off and saying ‘Yes, we will mask. Yes, we’ll keep the distance. Yes, we’ll sanitize things.’ We’ve been doing it all along.”

Toth said while they have had numerous staff and students quarantine, very few have actually tested positive for COVID-19.

“If I see that I think something is a spread or starting to be a spread, we’re closing down and everyone is going home. And we’ll see you in the new year," he said. "But we haven’t seen that yet.”

Elk County has seen a jump in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Cases have gone from 498 on Thanksgiving to 746 on Wednesday.

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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