COVID concerns factor into back to school plans for Midstate families


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — COVID concerns are looming large as Midstate families make back-to-school plans. Between masking, vaccinations, and in-person learning choices, there’s a lot for them to consider.

On Tuesday lots of local families came out to the Family Fun Fest in Harrisburg to enjoy the games and entertainment, register for school, and get vaccinated.

The Harrisburg School District had staff there to get students to register and explain their choices for the upcoming school year. Director of Academics Jackie Castleman says they’re offering in-person learning options, cyber blended options at Cougar Academy, and 100% virtual learning options at Harrisburg Virtual Learning Academy.

“I think the parents, with safety precautions, are excited for their kids to get back. While those that aren’t, we’re ok with that. We want to meet the needs of the kids where the parents are feeling comfortable,” Castleman said.

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Mom Kyrua Wade says she’s ready for her kids to get back to the classroom in person.

“I think it’s easier for our kids to be in school, hands-on with their other peers,” Wade said.

Parent Jalisa Lindsey is leaning towards the virtual option for her son.

“To be honest with you it’s safer because I wouldn’t mind for him to go back to school. He misses school, but I’m not willing to risk him,” Lindsey said.

The fair also included a vaccine clinic run by Hamilton Health Center.

Kimberly Craig was running the clinic. She said a lot of the people they vaccinated were people who said they wanted to be safe for the upcoming school year.

“The main thing is if your provider says it’s ok, we tell people going back to school and trying to return back to normal, it’s important to get vaccinated, especially for the kids because they’re going to be around so many more people than versus when they were virtual learning,” Craig said.

12-year-old student Dana Block says he’s happy to be vaccinated, both for school and after school.

“I won’t have to wear a mask and I won’t have to worry about getting sick,” Block said. “I can’t afford to get sick, because I’m going to Hersheypark with my other grandma.”

Even some who have the vaccine, like soon-to-be 8th grader Barkesuamie say they plan to take precautions at school.

“COVID-19 is getting better but we still have to be careful, like social distancing and everything,” Barkesuamie said.

Grandma Margaret Thompson says her granddaughters are vaccinated, but she still plans to have them wear masks if they return to the classroom.

“Because I want them to be safe. I mean we lost a family member to covid, so I don’t want to take any chances with my babies, no way,” Thompson said. “Maybe it doesn’t feel good as far as wearing a mask and everything, but I would rather wear a mask than a ventilator.”

The Family Fun Fair is happening all week long. You can find more information about it here.

Hamilton Health Clinic will be giving vaccines on Wednesday at Downey School from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Thursday at Melrose School from 12 p.m to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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