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With COVID-19 cases increasing, will schools remain open for in-person instruction?

Some schools have already changed course, and others could if cases continue to rise. Parents, like Olivia, Tatro, hope that's not the case.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Families have been forced to make tough decisions in regards to childcare, and they worry they could be forced to make them again if COVID-19 cases keep increasing.

"I quit, and I had to leave my job," explained Olivia Tatro of York County.

Tatro decided it would be more affordable to stay at home with her three girls and help them learn than it would be to pay for them to be watched.

"I looked into it, for three kids for full time daycare would be around $1,600 to $1,800 a month," said the mother of three.

Currently, Tatro's daughters do virtual schooling three days a week with Southern York County School District.

"That requires my constant attention, basically. Then, trying to work at an at-home job, it's just not possible, and if I did find a job that accepted that availability it would just eat my childcare expenses," added Tatro.

Right now, the possibility of full-time in-person class is unavailable until at least the start of the new year.

"I didn't go to school to be a teacher. It's been really difficult," she said.

"That's exactly what we don't want to happen," said Secretary Teresa Miller with the Department of Human Services. "What we've tried to avoid through the pandemic is having parents either stop working or reduce their hours because they have to be home with their kids."

As COVID-19 cases rise and the possibility for more schools changing course increases, Miller is reminding parents of the resources available. 

"We do have the childcare works program which supports low-income families and helps them pay for childcare," explained Miller over Zoom.

There could be a waiting list, depending on where you live. To find out, families are encouraged to contact their early learning resource enter or ELRC for help.

The DHS provided FOX43 with several resources for families, including:

DHS is promoting learning pods in communities. Different parents host groups of children and support them as they learn. Currently, there are 62 learning pods that are known by the state.

"All of the options available now have been available and have been created because of so much interest, and so many families saying they need more options," added Miller.

Families should know state officials do not currently plan to do a blanket school closure.

"We absolutely do not plan to have a general school closure as happened in the spring," explained Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine during a press conference Monday.

Dr. Levine says recommendations could be changed, though. She is reminding parents the decision to temporarily close or switch to online learning is being made locally - meaning, right now, it's up to each respective school district.

Right now, several schools in our area have temporarily changed course due to COVID-19: 

  • Warwick High School students will receive virtual instruction through the end of the week. Warwick also forfeited district championship matchup against Governor Mifflin High School.
  • Dallastown Area Middle and High School, as well as the Dallastown Area School District Wildcat Compass Academy will be physically closed to students beginning Wednesday, November 11 through Wednesday, December 2 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Students will transition to Wildcat Remote Instruction

Data released by the state shows 38 counties in Pennsylvania with substantial community transmission. In our area, that includes Adams, Berks, Dauphin, Juniata, Lancaster, and Lebanon Counties. Only three counties are considered to have low community transmission. Counties with substantial community transmission are recommended to consider remote instruction.

Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today released a weekly status update detailing the state's mitigation efforts based on the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard, highlighting a seven-day case increase of 15,989 cases, statewide percent positivity of 6.9%, and 38 counties with substantial transmission status.

You can read more on the recommendations for school districts here.

According to the state's website, there have been 16,607 total cases of COVID-19 among 5 to 18-year-olds throughout the pandemic. Of that total, 2,077 occurred between October 30 – November 5. For the week of October 23 – October 29, there were 1,185 cases of COVID-19 among 5 to 18-year-olds.

Cases by demographic group is also available on the DOH website.

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