One day after a case of COVID-19 led Crawford Central School District to close one elementary school building, the district announced another elementary building would close for the rest of the week because of another case.
Both cases detected this week involved teachers, according to Superintendent Tom Washington. Today, the district announced that a teacher at First District Elementary tested positive for COVID-19; late Tuesday morning the district learned that a West End Elementary teacher had tested positive.
“They will close down for tomorrow,” Washington said regarding First District. “Last night we cleaned everything anyway, but we’ll clean again.”
The district’s announcement came hours after the Pennsylvania Department of Health said that Crawford County had reported its largest single-day total of new coronavirus cases with 33.
The state has reported 168 cases in the county since Oct. 12 and 131 since Oct. 19.
The Meadville ZIP code (16335) has seen an increase of 16 confirmed cases and one probable case since Monday, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard.
A previously scheduled in-service day for the district on Friday means that First District students will attend classes remotely on Thursday before having Friday off. West End students, who began their period of remote learning today, will similarly attend classes online Thursday and then have Friday off.
“Everyone should be back on Monday,” Washington said.
Students should be logged onto their computers Thursday morning as if they were attending a normal school day, the district announced in a post to Facebook. Meals for Thursday were sent home with students when they were dismissed today, but families whose students do not come home with a meal for some reason can pick one up from 11 to 1 p.m. Thursday behind Meadville Area Senior High School at door 14.
Crawford Central Education Association President Kathy Hootman, who is a guidance counselor at First District, said that teachers would be working from home on Thursday but that it was not yet clear whether they would work remotely or in the building on Friday.
The First District closure is the second in the span of eight days for the school. On Oct. 21, the district announced that a student had tested positive, leading to a building closure last Thursday and Friday.
The district as a whole has seen four school buildings close at various points since late September for a total of 20 school days. Most of those came when Meadville Area Middle School closed for two weeks after being notified by the Department of Health that two students at the school were considered probable cases of COVID-19 on Sept. 22.
At Crawford Central School Board’s meeting on Monday, Hootman addressed the board, saying members of the teachers’ union were asking whether the district would be moving to a hybrid learning model in light of a spike of cases in the county.
Under the district’s hybrid model, conceived in the event that community transmission of COVID-19 grew to a moderate level, half of the district’s students attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and half attend in person on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Students study remotely on days they are not in their school building, with all students learning from home on Fridays.
On Wednesday, Washington acknowledged the inquiries regarding a shift to hybrid learning.
“They’re asking,” he said of staff members in the district. “We’re looking at the numbers. We’re having conversations and taking into consideration all those things.”
Also on Wednesday, Hootman reiterated her comments to the board on Monday, saying some teachers have asked about moving to hybrid learning.
“We have a wide range of opinions, like everybody — like every organization,” Hootman added. “Even I realize the district is doing the best it can.”
The district has reported seven confirmed cases and four probable cases among staff and students since the first cases were announced on Sept. 18. Five of the confirmed cases have been announced since Oct. 19.
The most recent cases in district schools, Washington noted, have involved staff members rather than students. Only one of the five cases reported this month has involved a student.
Reflecting on the district’s handling of the many challenges faced this semester, Washington suggested that complete control was impossible.
“It’s a virus. What can we do?” he said. “We’re doing the best we can and given the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I think we’re doing a decent job.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.