Central Dauphin scales back in-person learning after student tests positive

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Midstate’s largest school district is in the midst of an internal debate on whether to move completely to remote learning. On Monday, they made their decision.

About a month ago, Central Dauphin’s School Board considered sending all of its students back to in-person learning. A group of teachers, parents, and students fought hard, saying it wasn’t safe and hybrid was the better alternative.

Starting Monday, the entire Middle School switched back to virtual learning until Nov. 17, because hindsight may be 2020, but the year itself is not.

“COVID-19 will be brought into schools, but spread can be prevented,” said Dr. Amy Zellers, the Central Dauphin School District physician.

On Monday, the district announced that a middle school student had tested positive, and subsequently, middle school and fifth-graders at South Side Elementary would be learning remotely until Nov. 17.

“We will continue to monitor the situation weekly, in fact, daily. When the circumstances allow for a full return for middle and high schools, we will give ample notice for the return,” said Ford Thompson, Central Dauphin School Board President.

Board directors had hoped to start sending students back to middle school full-time this month.

“Everyone is looking for that magic metric or objective data point to say that a return to school full-time in person is safe. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist,” Zellers said.

What does exist are Pennsylvania Department of Education and Gov. Wolf’s guidelines for school. Right now, the district is considered at “substantial” risk due to rising cases in the community.

“The guidance from PDE and the Department of Health would be fully remote. Again, it’s not a mandate, it’s a guidance,” Thompson said.

The board chose 8-1 to not follow that guidance, but Dr. Zellers said fear not, almost all student cases are being contracted outside of school.

“Up to this point, we have identified one cluster of cases that was maybe due to close contact inside the classroom,” Zellers said.

What’s also inside the classroom — according to Zellers — is increased emotional support and mental health.

“There have been many times in the last several months that patients being held in our local emergency rooms awaiting psychiatric beds have outnumbered patients awaiting admission for COVID-19,” Zellers said.


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