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Possible coronavirus exposure prompts school closures

"While we do not have any confirmed cases in our district, we are closing schools out of an abundance of caution,”

  • Emily Previti/PA Post
Custodian Luis Perez uses a cleaning solution applied to a cloth to wipe down all high-touch areas in a chemistry classroom. Custodial staff at East Pennsboro High School sanitize surfaces each day as a precautionary measure for the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, March 11, 2020.

Dan Gleiter / PennLive

Custodian Luis Perez uses a cleaning solution applied to a cloth to wipe down all high-touch areas in a chemistry classroom. Custodial staff at East Pennsboro High School sanitize surfaces each day as a precautionary measure for the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, March 11, 2020.

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(Lancaster) — Schools in York and Lancaster are closed Friday, pending results of coronavirus tests.

“This evening, we were made aware that a community member has been tested for a potential case of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  While we do not have any confirmed cases in our district, we are closing schools out of an abundance of caution,” stated a pop-up message on the Southern York School District website.

Southern York’s administrative offices will remain open and the district expects to let parents before the weekend when they expect classes to resume for the 500 or so students enrolled there.

The School District of Lancaster’s web post and message to parents stated the “possible exposure” to COVID-19 appears limited to two elementary schools and tied to the spouse of a staffer (neither of whom are exhibiting symptoms).

“However, in an abundance of caution, we felt it best to close all schools as we wait for test results, isolate the incident, disinfect buildings and plan next steps,” SDOL’s post stated.

SDOL and Southern York have a combined enrollment of more than 14,000 students.

Announced late Thursday evening, the closures in Central Pa. followed Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate shutting down all schools and non-essential travel in Montgomery County, which has the highest number of positive COVID-19 test results, as officials bolstered preparations for the arrival of virus in surrounding areas – including those that haven’t reported any coronavirus cases.

They also came several hours after government officials in York and Lancaster briefed reporters about local efforts to get ready for the arrival of the virus

York Mayor Michael Helfrich declared a state of emergency Wednesday in the city of 50,000, to afford flexibility reassigning staff, hiring health care workers or taking other steps in response to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Lancaster County government officials and representatives from Lancaster’s schools, first responder agencies and medical and business communities briefed reporters Thursday afternoon on their efforts at the county’s public safety training center.

Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 Superintendent Brian Barnhart spoke on behalf of the county’s public school districts.

For Barnhart, the impact of a school closure on the ever-growing number of students living in poverty was top of mind.

“The closure of schools is not so good news for them. Many of them will lose up to two meals a day, and they will lose the ability to get food to take home,” he said Thursday afternoon.

Asked about contingencies for those students, Barnhart identified one district that had a plan in place in the event of a closure: the School District of Lancaster, which will make food available to pick up.

Barnhart said individual districts will release more information to parents after a webinar with state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera scheduled for Friday morning.

 

Editor’s note: this post has been updated to add details about SDOL’s closure.

 

 

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