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KCSD schools seeing cases of COVID-19

MILL HALL — Although the 2021-22 school year is just a few weeks old, the Keystone Central School District is already being impacted by the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases.

There are currently 20 cases of COVID-19 among students in the Keystone Central School District, superintendent Jacquelyn Martin announced during Thursday night’s school board voting meeting. Four students are still awaiting results and 144 are in quarantine, Martin said.

She also noted that the numbers are worse in certain parts of the district than in others.

“I look at things by building and I have the numbers by building,” Martin said. “It’s also interesting to look at our northern tier and our southern tier. Right now, all of these cases — with the exception of one contact — are in the southern tier. Bucktail and Renovo, at this point, are not seeing the number of cases that we’re seeing in the southern tier. I think that also mimmicks the community spread numbers that we’re seeing as well.”

The board also addressed the recent mask mandate, which went into effect on Sept. 7. The mandate is part of a Pennsylvania Department of Health order that affects students and staff at K-12 schools, early learning programs and daycares. Teachers, staff and students have to wear masks while inside, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated, with some exceptions.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom’s Wolf administration said it issued the order because of the delta variant, which is more transmissible and can be dangerous, especially to those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. When Wolf made the announcement about the new masking order for schools last week, he said the delta variant “changed everything.”

School boards throughout the Commonwealth have had to deal with protests at recent meetings. In Centre County, the Penns Valley school board had to call in state police at Rockview because parents refused to wear masks. At Bellefonte earlier this week, a group of approximately 40 parents showed up at the meeting and also refused to wear masks, though police were not called.

However, at Keystone Central, just one parent spoke against masking during Thursday night’s meeting. Her children, though, attend Sugar Valley Rural Charter School. Another parent spoke in favor of masks.

Also on Thursday night, the board passed an updated Health and Safety Plan. Martin emailed parents on Friday, notifying them of the update.

In her email, she said the district “will comply with and enforce any state mandated orders pertaining to face masks including the Aug. 31, 2021 Order of the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Directing Face Coverings in School Entities. We are aware that many of you feel divided on the mask issue. I am aware of the science presented on both sides of the debate. Please understand that as a public school district, we are required to follow and enforce the PA Mask Order or face consequences from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.”

The updated plan says: “All students, staff and visitors will be expected to comply with the mask requirements while in school unless they have an approved exemption. Student Mask exemptions may be requested using the school district form and by submitting all of the necessary documentation. Anyone who is not willing to comply with this policy will be able to select virtual academy as an alternative learning option. Synchronous remote learning is being used as a temporary measure only and must be approved by the principal.”

Martin asked parents and students for their cooperation.

“We kept our schools open for many months last year with our mitigation efforts which included masking. I am again asking for your cooperation and support so we can keep our schools open and all activities running,” Martin said.

In other business, Thursday:

— The district announced that there would be adjustments to the upcoming school open house format. In order to eliminate the unnecessary risks of exposure to staff, there will not be any in-person activities during the 2021 scheduled open house times. As an alternative to an in-person event, the staff will be creating video messages for families that will be provided and posted to the district website by Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.

— The board heard a lengthy presentation about student activities and clubs, including a breakdown of how many students take part in extra-curricular activities.

The board will meet again at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2021 at Bucktail High School. The work session and voting meeting will be combined that evening.

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