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Gov. extends school closures in PA

AP photo A man and a little girl play on a memorial to Civil War veterans in West Park on the Northside of Pittsburgh on a sunny Sunday, March 22, 2020.

K-12 schools throughout the Commonwealth will remain closed for two weeks as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement — which will close schools through at least the week of April 6. Today’s additional school closure will be for 14 days, beginning Tuesday, March 24.

When it’s determined that students can return to school, administrators, teachers and other staff will be given two days to prepare classrooms, set up cafeterias, schedule transportation and arrange other business operations, according to PA Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera. Students would return on the third day, or April 9.

“We’re going to extend it for another two weeks all across the state,” Wolf said, noting he is “leaving open the option that I will do this for another two weeks and that’s the only decision I have made at this point.”

WCSD Superintendent Amy Stewart further clarified Wolf’s announcement in a Facebook post Monday afternoon.

“He used the wording, ‘two more weeks,'” Stewart said, citing an email received from the Secretary of Education. “I recognize this doesn’t make a lot of sense, as most people are off on April 10th for Good Friday. This would mean our students would come back for one day, then go back out for Easter weekend.”

She said to expect a calendar revision discussion at Monday night’s School Board meeting.

“We have no way of knowing whether or not this will be extended again,” Stewart continued. “We recognize this closure is creating a gap, and we are busy working on multiple ways to help repair that gap.”

Another key challenge is the readiness and availability of an online solution throughout the entire county.

“It is simply impossible for many of our families and teachers who live in areas without any service. We do, however, recognize it may be a good solution for some families,” she said.

“We have been piloting one-to-one technology during this 20-21 school year, and we are currently working on how we can use what we have to begin filling this gap.”

Stewart says WCSD remains committed to solving a problem that is changing by the day. But for now, she is urging families to “Please keep your focus on staying healthy during this difficult time.”

Wolf also announced a “stay at home order” for six of the hardest hit counties — Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe and Montgomery counties.

He said that means effective 8 p.m. Monday individuals “must stay in your home unless not leaving your home endangers a life.”

Health Department Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced an additional 165 cases, bringing the state-wide total to 644 in 34 counties. An additional 6,595 patients have tested negative.

Levine noted that a total of six Pennsylvanians have died as a result of the virus — one fatality in each of Allegheny, Lackawanna, Monroe and Montgomery counties, and two in Northampton County.

She emphasized the importance of staying home from work — specifically speaking to healthcare workers.

“We cannot work through this illness,” she said, explaining that the same logic also applies to food service, grocery store and gas station employees.

“(We are) living in a time unlike any other,” Wolf said. “All of us need to take this situation seriously.”

He said the state’s supply chain hasn’t experienced disruption like this since “at least the Civil War.”

“We must act as soon as possible and we must act decisively,” he continued. “This is not a request I make lightly. (I) won’t pretend things won’t get worse before they get better.”

He said the Commonwealth will do “everything in its power” back to support businesses and workers. “Before we can recover, we must survive.”

Here’s Monday’s county-by-county breakdown: Montgomery (129) and one fatality, Philadelphia (128), Delaware (54), Allegheny (48) and one fatality, Bucks, Monroe (43), Chester (40), Lehigh (25), Northampton (23) and one fatality, Berks (14), Cumberland (12), York, Luzerne (10), Lackawanna, Washington (7), Adams, Westmoreland (6), Butler, Lancaster (5), Beaver, Centre, Erie, Lebanon, Pike, Schuylkill, Wayne (3). There is one case in each of the following counties: Cambria, Columbia, Dauphin, Fayette, Franklin, Mercer, Montour and Potter.

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