DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — As of Saturday October 17th, there are 19 cases of COVID-19 at Milton Hershey school in Dauphin County. While that number may seem like a lot, it's a very small percentage of it's population. And leaders their said with their new protocols in place - they are confident it will help mitigate the spread.
Like most places, COVID-19 has forced many changes, and at MHS things are no different: mask wearing, socially distanced classroom. But despite the 'less than comfortable' changes for some, there is something comfortable about being back.
"I feel like the school does well keeping everybody safe and connected," Nikki Willis, an MHS student, said. "Because they just make sure everyone gets where they have to go safely."
And that's just one of the many protocols MHS has put in place since the start of the school year.
"When you walk around campus you see everybody is wearing a mask," Dave Vagnoni, spokesperson for MHS, said. "People are practicing social distancing, there's one way traffic in and out of buildings, staff are screened everyday for COVID-19 symptoms."
But the year has brought some challenges. 25 cases of COVID-19, as of mid-October, out of its 4,000 students and staff. The number continues to decline on a regular basis.
"It's important that people know that we're all in this together," Vagnoni said. "That's the way we feel at MHS and we definitely have a sense that everybody is looking out for one another."
Two months in and lessons have been learned in and out of the classroom.
"I think that I've really learned to really kind of pause and think things through before reacting too quickly," Tara Valoczki, the elementary school principal, said. "Things can change in a moment's notice with COVID. I just think as long as we can have that compassion for one another, we'll continue to have this success.
"We feel like this is the best they can do with us being a boarding school and the kids being away from home," Tanya Aviles, an MHS houseparent, said. "And trying to keep the kids in the student home safe while also letting them go to school, and have that interaction too because that's important for these kids to go to school. Have some normalcy in a pandemic."
Another tool the school is utilizing is contact tracers, who are certified by Johns Hopkins. Because of privacy concerns, school leaders can not disclose if any one is hospitalized, or what the break down of cases is between staff and students.