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Parents voice COVID concerns to school officials

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, U.S. health regulators OK'd the first coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home, a new approach that could help expand testing options in most states. The sample will still have to be shipped for processing back to LabCorp, which operates diagnostic labs throughout the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

HUGHESVILLE — Step-by-step details of what happens when a student or staff member is diagnosed with the coronavirus did little to alleviate worries of parents in the East Lycoming School District as they see cases in the county rise.

Superintendent Michael Pawlik reviewed the process with the school board Tuesday.

“I just want to walk everyone through the process of what happens when you have a positive case and what do we need to do here,” Pawlik said to a Zoom audience.

“You hear all the terms like contact tracing and quarantining and what goes on. It really is a complete team effort to make sure that students get what they need,” he added.

Once the district is notified that a student tests positive, teachers are contacted in order to obtain seating charts. The administrative team then goes to classrooms and physically measures distances between desks. Questions about how many adults were in the rooms as well whether the teacher worked directly with the student who is ill, need to be answered. The school works with the state Department of Health.

“So we work hand and hand with the Department of Health and they are the ones that help us determine who is quarantining in all that information,” Pawlik said.

By the end of the meeting, when the board opened up for public comment, parents vented their frustration that the school has not gone to remote learning considering that the county is now considered in a substantial rate of transmission.

Parents cited recommendations by the state Department of Education that schools located in counties with substantial transmission rates should move to remote learning.

One parent, Amanda Waldman, said that the DOH is allowing districts to determine when it is appropriate to close schools.

“There were seven positive cases we were alerted to last week alone,” Waldman stated.

“At what point will you recognize the fact that your measures aren’t preventing the spread? How many students and staff have to get sick before you do the right thing? And please explain how a student or a teacher has had no contact with others,” she added.

Another parent questioned what measures have been taken to increase health safety inside school buildings such as upgrading HVAC, increasing ventilation and maintaining the six-foot minimum distance in the hallways.

Pawlik reiterated that the governor’s recommendations are a district-by-district and county-by-county basis whether districts open or close.

“We’re having conversations with and following the guidance from the Department of Health whether we are seeing community spread in the school,” Pawlik said.

He noted that the district has increased the amount of exchange in terms of ventilation in school building.

“All of the students are encouraged all of the time to wash their hands and social distance,” he said in response to the parent’s question.

Hand washing is built into the elementary schedules. At the high school level the six-foot distance is adhered to in the hallways, Pawlik said, while he admitted there are certain classroom situations where that is not possible.

Another parent asked, in light of the upcoming holiday and the new regulation instituted by the Department of Health stating that anyone traveling out of state would have to quarantine for 14 days when returning to Pennsylvania, how the school would track those students.

Pawlik said parents have to submit a form if they are leaving the state and the district can now require a test showing that students are negative for the coronavirus and/or they will be required to quarantine.

Not all parent comments were negative as one parent thanked the staff for making the schools as safe as possible, allowing students to attend in-person.

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