The State College Area school board voted 5 to 4 Wednesday night to close schools and take a day off this Friday, giving the district time to review new COVID-19 data.
The meeting came the same day Centre County saw its largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases, leading to concerns about whether the growing number of cases in Penn State students will spread to the community at large.
The board vote followed four and a half hours of discussion and comments from about 20 members of the public. Many spoke against the proposal, urging the district to keep schools open.
Donna Korzick, whose daughter attends Mount Nittany Middle School, is a Penn State faculty member who is teaching in-person. She said she would need to go into the classroom whether or not the board canceled school Friday.
“Most parents are pushed to the brink, but especially single parents,” Korzick said, later adding: “It’s only one day for you, but it’s much more for those of us who have a lot more on our plate.”
Dr. Christine Zanghi, an anesthesiologist and parent, said the COVID-19 numbers right now are probably the best they’ll be for the rest of the school year.
“If we talk about closing schools, we all need to recognize that means school is done for the year,” other than remote, she said.
She said the numbers aren’t going to improve.
“Remote learning is very difficult on the children,” Zanghi said. “My children need their teachers as much as my patients need me.”
But board members who supported taking Friday off said it will allow the district to look at the numbers over the long weekend and see whether cases continue to rise.
Penn State will make its next release of testing results Friday, and Monday is a holiday.
“If we feel like there’s some significant risk of very high numbers coming out on Friday, then simply taking the day off to evaluate the situation by letting people know sooner or rather than later, that allows people to plan for it," said board President Amber Concepcion.
The school district’s approved COVID-19 emergency plan calls for looking at switching to remote learning in certain cases, including when the seven-day case total in the district’s zip codes reaches 50 to 75 cases. The district exceeded that number Wednesday, reaching 105 cases in its seven-day total.
District officials said they will review the case numbers from Penn State and the state Department of Health this weekend.