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COVID cases concentrated in G-A eighth grade, instruction moves online

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot
Greencastle-Antrim Middle School eighth-graders began two weeks of online learning Monday, Nov. 2, due to COVID-19.

Greencastle-Antrim Middle School eighth-graders began two weeks of online learning Monday, Nov. 2, due to COVID-19.

"We hope that this two-week time will settle the increased cases for what seems to be a targeted population in our Greencastle schools," Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent, wrote in a letter to families on Friday.

Hanks announced the move when there were four positive cases among eighth-grade students, as well an eighth-grade teacher. Two more eighth-grade cases were confirmed over the weekend, bringing the total to six students.

"We have unfortunately hit a milestone in this COVID-19 pandemic," Hanks wrote in her letter on Friday announcing the teacher's case, which pushed eighth grade close to Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control recommended threshold to move to virtual learning.

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The department of health and CDC advise districts move to online learning when 2 to 4% of enrollment tests positive.

The district as a whole remains in the clear, but eighth grade is near 2%. Outside of eighth grade, the only other positive in the district is a food service worker at the primary school.

"We are not willing to take any unnecessary risks," Hanks wrote Friday. "Therefore, in being abundantly cautious, Greencastle-Antrim Middle School will be moving all eighth-grade students to virtual learning for two weeks.

"Every teacher has been preparing for such a scenario and our eighth-grade class will be the first to experience this short-term transition," Hanks wrote. "We are certain that through the next two weeks, we will learn more about how we can be flexible this year and further strengthen our ability to offer virtual learning experiences."

In a letter on Sunday announcing two more positives in eighth grade, Hanks said, "This news confirms that we likely made the best decision possible for our students and staff ... We will continue to keep you informed and make decisions accordingly. I wish we could give a more detailed plan, but it is impossible to predict a trend and must continue taking this one day at a time. We do plan to continue in-person learning for as long as we are able, however, if at any time we believe that our school buildings could be the cause of a spread, we will move to a virtual learning environment as we have with our eighth-grade class."

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The district's COVID-19 back-to-school health and safety plan includes virtual learning scenarios and since the beginning of the school year, Wednesdays have been online for all students.

Hanks also is asking families to help limit the spread of the virus.

"We are social beings and crave interaction for our own mental health. I am asking, though, that all families increase their efforts to minimize potential for exposure," Hanks wrote. "If you have plans to gather with others outside your family, including children spending time with friends, please wear masks, maintain a 6-foot distance and wash hands frequently. Those three preventative measures provide significant barriers to exposure. Numbers are quickly rising in Franklin County and we want to protect our community to the greatest extent possible."

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Franklin County has a 2,221 confirmed cases, a 10.3% positivity rate and 73 more cases over the past seven days.