WELLSBORO — All Pennsylvania schools are closed until at least April 6, an extension to the original order by Governor Tom Wolf, as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
In the original order, put out on Friday, March 13, Wolf ordered schools to be closed until March 30. The extended closure was announced on Monday.
When it’s determined that students can return to school, administrators, teachers and other staff will have two days to prepare classrooms, set up cafeterias, schedule transportation and arrange other business operations, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students would return on the third day.
Local schools are continuing to serve lunches to kids 18 and under. Wellsboro Area School District is offering lunches on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from noon until 2 p.m. and 4:30-6 p.m. at the Wellsboro Fire Hall Annex and the Truck-Lite parking lot. Each day, students will receive two days worth of food. Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman said several community members, school board members and administrators have volunteered their time to help with this effort.
“We are humbled by the community support,” Freeman wrote in an email to The Gazette. “Brett Kennedy, pastor of Vineyard Church, has been amazing. He has taken on coordination of all volunteers for multiple shifts.”
“This week, Pastor TJ Freeman, from Wellsboro Bible Church, has taken on coordination for the Truck-Lite location. To say we are blessed is an understatement,” Freeman wrote.
Teachers have been posting practice items and enrichment ideas for students online. Though it’s still unclear what the remainder of the school year will look like in relation to high school staple events, such as spring sports and prom, Freeman said it’s important for the students, especially the seniors, to experience as much normalcy as possible.
“We will do everything in our control to still hold events as normal as possible. However, it is too early to determine when social distancing rules will end,” Freeman wrote.
Northern Tioga School District is also serving meals to kids in the district from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 distribution sites across the district, Dr. Diana Barnes, superintendent, said. Barnes said the district served 1,800 meals last week.
“The meals are important, we really want to see that they continue,” Barnes said. In cases where meals are needed but are unable to be picked up, she said delivery could be an option.
Some essential staff members are still working, Barnes said.
Under Governor Wolf’s order, personnel at the educational entities in all 67 counties who are providing life-sustaining services, including, but not limited to: administration, food preparation and distribution, housing, security, information technology, building maintenance, and operations (e.g., payroll) can continue to be deemed essential and are permitted to continue their work, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines, Barnes said.
The custodial staff wipes everything down and has been working to keep the building clean, she said. The district also received an email warning that hackers are “ramping it up right now,” so they are being careful about the district’s cybersecurity.
Barnes said it has been neat to see people step up and do what needs to be done to help one another.
“I’m so grateful to live in an area that understands what it means to be a neighbor and understand what it means to help their neighbors,” Barnes said.