Greater Latrobe School District will be shifting from five days a week of in-person instruction to empty school buildings on Monday.
In a letter posted to the district’s website Monday evening, superintendent Dr. Georgia Teppert announced the district will be shifting to a full remote learning model beginning Nov. 2.
“For the past two weeks, Westmoreland County has been designated as a county having a substantial level of community transmission for COVID-19,” Teppert wrote. “The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education recommend a full remote learning model for all schools in counties with two consecutive weeks of a substantial level of community transmission.”
As of 4 p.m. Monday, Westmoreland County had experienced 4,097 total coronavirus cases, an increase of 66 compared to Friday’s total. That total includes 3,632 confirmed cases and 465 probable. As of Monday’s update, there have been 50,883 negative COVID-19 tests in Westmoreland County (92.55%), according to statistics provided by the county on its website.
There had been 84 deaths among Westmoreland County residents attributed to coronavirus as of Monday’s county update, as confirmed by the state health department through the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) — an increase of four over the weekend. The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office listed a total of 82 coronavirus deaths as of Friday — 75 confirmed by testing and another seven presumed cases based on symptoms. The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s most recent update on Monday reported 84 coronavirus deaths in Westmoreland County.
The coroner’s COVID-19 death total includes any individual whose death occurred in Westmoreland County, regardless of their county of residence.
According to the state health department, as of Monday there were 39 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the county — a decrease of one from Sunday — and five coronavirus patients on ventilators, up from four on Sunday.
Teppert’s letter noted that a change was made in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for identifying “close contacts” to now include anyone who has been within six feet of a positive case for a total of 15 minutes — not just 15 consecutive minutes — within a 24-hour period.
“This new guideline will greatly increase the number of individuals needing to be quarantined when our schools are confronted with a positive case, thus making it even more difficult to keep our school buildings open and remain in a brick and mortar setting,” Teppert wrote.
The district’s administrative team, solicitor and school board president Dr. Michael Zorch on Monday participated in a meeting with the district’s Local Medical Expert Panel, according to Teppert, to review state recommendations, local conditions surrounding the pandemic and the most appropriate instructional model.
Following the meeting, “it has been decided that GLSD will begin a full remote instructional model utilizing ‘GLSD Online,’” beginning Monday, Nov. 2. The district had previously planned for a two-hour late start and full remote learning on Tuesday, Nov. 3, because of voting precincts inside of some district buildings.
“We will finish this week in a brick and mortar setting in order for our teachers and students to complete the first nine-week grading period and for parents to prepare for family needs,” Teppert wrote, cautioning that a substantial increase of COVID-19 cases in specific classrooms or school buildings could force the district to implement the full remote option sooner.
“We will remain in a remote online instructional model for a minimum of two weeks in order to monitor Westmoreland County’s transmission rates and continue to collaborate with our Medical Expert Panel,” Teppert added. “When Westmoreland County returns to a moderate level of community transmission, we will re-evaluate a change to our instructional model to include a brick and mortar setting.”
Derry Area School District has been operating under a full remote learning model since Oct. 13 after learning five staff members tested positive for the virus, and planned to reopen for in-person instruction Oct. 19 before learning of additional COVID-19 cases last week and extending the remote learning model through at least Oct. 30.
Derry Area’s first positive COVID-19 cases came less than two weeks after the school board had approved the return of full-time, in-person learning for middle- and high-school students.
Ligonier Valley School District has remained in a hybrid instructional model since the beginning of the school year, with one cohort of learners attending in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and a second cohort attending Thursdays and Fridays, with remote instruction for all on Wednesdays.
Last week, LV reported two coronavirus cases among Ligonier Valley High School learners in the Thursday-Friday cohort, leading the district to close the high school on Friday for deep cleaning. In a letter to parents posted on the district website, superintendent Dr. Christine Oldham noted Westmoreland County’s “substantial” community transmission level as well as the possibility the district would need to shift to a full-time remote instructional model.