South Western School District to keep schools in remote learning after winter break
The South Western school board opted to keep its schools under a remote learning model for the first few weeks of the new year, going against a recommendation to return students to the classroom starting Jan. 4.
The board voted Wednesday night 5-1 to keep students in remote learning until at least Jan. 19. The administration originally recommended elementary schools return to in-person instruction five days a week, and the district's middle school and high school return to a hybrid model, on Jan. 4.
The board voted in November to transition all six of its schools to fully remote learning as COVID-19 cases were rising throughout York County. As of Wednesday, cases were continuing to rise, with 18,232 cases recorded and 313 deaths in the county.
South Western has recorded 51 COVID-19 cases since August, with 13 of those recorded within the past 14 days, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.
Several board members agreed Jan. 4 was too early to bring students back into the classroom, particularly following the holidays. Board President Vanessa Berger said she anticipated a surge of COVID-19 cases similar to what happened after Thanksgiving break.
“I don’t want to see us set up for failure," Berger said.
Superintendent Jay Burkhart said he supported returning to in-person instruction Jan. 4 because he wanted to bring students back to the classroom as soon as possible. However, he said other administrators were in favor of reopening later, and he would support the decision if the board thought it was best.
“There is no fool-proof plan," Burkhart said. "Because if there were, believe me I would find it.”
In November, South Western officials signed an attestation form in accordance with an order from Gov. Tom Wolf. The district agreed to comply with state safety regulations in order to stay open.
As part of the form, the district will be required to temporarily close individual school buildings if enough people within a building report positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period. All York County school districts signed the attestation form.