A Spike in COVID-19 Cases Doesn’t Bode Well for In-Person Return to Schools
By Steven Hoffman
For parents of children in the Kennett Consolidated School District hoping for a return to in-person instruction, the news was not good at the Sept. 14 school board meeting that was live-streamed.
Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey said reports from the Chester County Department of Health indicated that the percentage of positivity of COVID-19 infection countywide had been trending around 2.5 for two weeks prior, but then took a spike upward above 5 in the most recent week. This is higher than the three-week consecutive reduction level recommended for return to school for students.
Blakey said following the issue of that metric that the department issued a new graphic advising actions schools should take related to a sliding scale of incidence. Specific tor the Kennett Consolidated School District, that incidence of infection shown is 40.77 per 100,000 population.
“We are trending in the high or very high level which puts us in the hybrid or virtual category. That gives us good pause to continue with the virtual model,” Blakey said.
He added that he and other superintendents in the area would continue to meet with each other and the Department of Health on a weekly basis and would also take into account heavily the safety of the instructional team.
Blakey also reported that the district is working with various institutions, including Willowdale Chapel, St. Patrick Church, Kennett Friends Meeting, The Garage, Tick Tock Early Learning Center and Creative Play to provide facilities and Internet accessibility for students in need of supervision during the day for virtual lessons. He hopes to begin that program by Sept. 29, he said.
He added that Kennett Education Foundation has offered financial help for issues related to the COVID-19 infections in the district.
Assistant superintendent Dr. Michael Barber said the health department has recommended postponing sports until Jan. 1, 2021 but is leaving the decisions up to the schools’ governing bodies. Kennett will continue voluntary practices for all sports with a health and safety plan.
When he was asked by a board member if there was a possibility of combining all the yearlong sports into the months from January through spring, Barber said that has been under consideration.
Barber added that there was limited guidance provided at the August board meeting of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. “We are not sure of the number of schools that are going to have an alternate solution. We are still waiting to hear from the other schools,” he said.
On the positive side, Blakey said the district was been able to continue issuing grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches.
George Wolhafe, the director of facilities and construction, reported that the projects to install a new football field and track are complete, as is the renovation of the tennis courts.
He said the new track is very high quality, and water will run off it. The tennis courts have had wind shields installed as well, so the play will not be affected as much by the wind blowing the balls around.
The Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center façade project is also nearing completion, he said. The cost for that construction is about $800,000. Wolhafe said the project was undertaken for three purposes: to ensure safety at the entrance, to enlarge the drop-off area and to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He added that the contractors for Mary D. Lang façade were given extra time due to the move to virtual learning. He said completion will be at the end of October.