Greencastle-Antrim High School closed until January, COVID contact reported at elementary
The COVID-19 situation continues to change rapidly in the Greencastle-Antrim School District.
In-school exposures have now occurred at Greencastle-Antrim Elementary and, at Thursday's school board meeting, Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent, said high school instruction will remain virtual until after Christmas vacation.
Contact at school
In a letter to families Friday, Hanks said two elementary students — a third-grader and a fourth-grader — tested positive and the district notified the families of students who were within 6 feet of them for more than 15 minutes to quarantine their children. Families with children on the same bus or in the same classroom also were contacted so they could make decisions about their children.
Positive cases have recently been reported in other students at the primary, elementary and middle schools, but in those cases the youngsters had not been in school so exposure was not an issue.
"We expect a bumpy ride this winter," Hanks wrote. "We will do our best to maintain continuity of education as students move between home and school. Our teachers and staff are continuing to adapt to these changing conditions and working diligently to support your child. Do not hesitate to reach out if you experience frustration or need support. We are in this together and will continue to serve our children and community."
With cases on the rise, the district has established a COVID-19 hotline where positive cases and possible exposures can be reported. Parents can call 717-597-6417 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The district, following its adjusted health and safety plan, will continue to monitor the number of positive cases and can shut down grade levels or classes if they hit the "substantial" level under Pennsylvania Department of Health guides.
The substantial level is reached if "2 to 4% of a given population or group becomes affected" and instruction becomes all virtual for two weeks. Earlier this month, eighth-grade students went online for two weeks after COVID-19 numbers crossed that threshold.
At the high school
Greencastle-Antrim High School instruction will remain virtual until after Christmas vacation. High-schoolers have been online since the week of Nov. 9, when the plan was to return after Thanksgiving.
Hanks said every surrounding school district is opting for virtual instruction for older students.
She also cited a survey done last week of parents at all levels and students at the middle and high schools about whether they prefer virtual or in-person instruction.
At the high school, the vote was split for both parents and students. Of the 901 high school parents who responded, 491 — 54.5% — said in-person and 410 — 45.5% — said virtual. Of the 361 high school students who responded, 182 — 50.4% — favored in-person vs. 179 — 49.6% for virtual.
"Fifty percent doesn't give me full confidence that bringing them back is the best thing," Hanks said.
She noted that although instruction is virtual, the building remains open for students in intensive programs such as life skills, those who are receiving tutoring and students who need internet access or just a quiet space in which to learn.
Another survey, including information on what families are doing over Christmas break, including travel, will be sent out in December.
The goal is to bring the high school back "full throttle" in January, Hanks said.
The survey results at the high school were split fairly evenly, but the younger the children, the more interest there is in keeping them in school, Hanks said.
Results for the other buildings:
Primary school parents: 689
In person: 490, 71.1%
Virtual: 199, 28.9%
Elementary school parents: 687
In person: 487, 70.9%
Virtual: 200, 29.1%
Middle school parents: 796
In-person: 520, 65.3%
Virtual: 276, 34.7%
Middle school students: 626
In person: 454, 72.5%
Virtual: 172, 27.5%
The surveys are taken to measure the pulse of the community, Hanks said.
These results are different from August when 90% wanted schools open.