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Eastern York School District to go fully remote for two weeks after winter break

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Eastern York Middle School

Eastern York School District students will return with fully remote learning for two weeks following winter break before going back to the classroom Jan. 19. 

The Eastern York school board narrowly voted 5-4 Thursday night to go fully remote starting Jan. 4 after more than an hour of discussion. Superintendent Joseph Mancuso said the district plans to return to in-person instruction Jan. 19.

Mancuso recommended the district go temporarily remote after seeing an increase in reported COVID-19 cases. Of the overall 40 cases reported within the district, he said nine were reported in the past two weeks. 

"What I'm concerned about is (cases) doubling and seeing more cases when we could be proactive and prevent that," Mancuso said. 

Eastern York School District's new superintendent, Joe Mancuso, is shown in his office Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

Mancuso said he suspects the increase was due to gatherings held over Thanksgiving break, and he expects cases to rise over the remaining holidays. The intent of the two-week closure is to prevent the disease from spreading further, leading to more closures in the future, he said. 

Eastern York's decision came hours after Gov. Tom Wolf instituted a slew of new limits on gatherings in Pennsylvania and capacity limits on businesses that can stay open under his revised order. Wolf's new restrictions will last for three weeks, an effort to knock down the spread of the coronavirus during the holiday season. 

Eastern York School District has held classes in person since November. In late November, the district signed an attestation form in accordance with an order from Gov. Tom Wolf, agreeing to follow additional safety regulations, including a face mask requirement. 

More:Schools to decide between remote learning or complying with state regulations

More:All York County school districts signed Wolf's form to stay open

As part of the attestation form, the district agreed to temporarily close schools if enough positive COVID-19 cases were identified within a single school building over a 14-day period. Mancuso said two schools, Wrightsville Elementary and Kreutz Creek Elementary, already had to close for three days because they reached the threshold. 

On Thursday, several board members resisted Mancuso's recommendation and urged the board to reduce the length of the closure. One board member suggested closing schools for just one day. 

Board member James Reese argued that students have already lost about a year of education due to the restrictions brought by the pandemic, which Mancuso disagreed with. Board members Richard Zepp and Mark Keller argued that closing schools was not beneficial to parents or the community. 

Board member Darvin Shelley challenged the argument, arguing the district's responsibility was to students. Shelley supported the recommendation and said COVID-19 cases are expected to rise and the district should do its part to prevent the spread.

"We ain't seen nothing yet," Shelley said. "It's gonna get bad."