VERNON TOWNSHIP — Crawford Central School Board members voted 8-1 on Monday to ratify the district’s return on Feb. 8 to full-time, in-person instruction.
The lone vote against the move came from Bryan Miller.
The board’s approval Monday came with no discussion. During discussion of the issue at the board’s Feb. 15 work session, Miller read a prepared statement in which he cited his experience working at a health care facility during the pandemic as the basis for his opposition. He is the operations manager for environmental services at UPMC Jameson in New Castle.
“I’ve seen the effects of COVID-19 firsthand. I’ve seen what it does to the patients. I’ve seen what it does to health care professionals,” Miller said. “I do agree that students learn better when attending school five days a week, but I believe the work teachers and staff did while in the hybrid model was working and effective.”
Miller said he was less concerned about teachers, students and staff contracting the virus than the possibility of those people transmitting it to other community members, particularly those at high risk.
“The number of cases in the hospitals has been declining, but why risk overwhelming our health care system in our county?” Miller asked. “I really hope that I’m wrong and that we continue to see the virus decline.”
Since parents were notified of the return to full-time, in-person instruction on Feb. 3, the district has announced eight COVID-19 cases. Six of the cases involved students while two were staff members.
After Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Tom Washington said the shift from hybrid instruction to in-person had been successful so far. During hybrid instruction two groups of students alternate in-person and remote attendance Monday through Thursday, and all students attend virtually on Fridays.
“As with anything, you still have cases here and there, but when you look at the cases for the county, they continue to fall,” Washington said, “so it’s been going well.”
Washington said the return was timed to coincide with the beginning of two consecutive four-day weeks due to the Presidents Day break. Had a sharp increase in cases occurred, the built-in days off would have helped the district’s reaction, according to Washington.
Feb. 8 also came two weeks after many Crawford Central employees received their second dose of vaccine.
“That also made us feel a little bit more comfortable,” Washington said.
Employees of local school districts were among those receiving the first dose of the vaccine at a Meadville Medical Center clinic on Jan. 2 and again on Jan. 23. Last month, Washington said that nearly 50 percent of district employees had signed up to receive the vaccination at the first opportunity.
With the district and nation approaching the one-year anniversary of pandemic-related interruptions to education, Washington noted the importance of returning to a consistent schedule while also emphasizing safety.
“This has just been a very long year,” he said, before cautioning that additional pivots to hybrid or remote learning may be necessary.
“It’s still a virus,” he said, “so you do the best you can.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.