Dover sixth graders transition to remote learning after high COVID-19 spread at middle school

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Dover Area Middle School Thursday, October 28, 2021. The school is a renovated version of the old high school. A new high school was built on the site of the former intermediate school nearby. The district is hosting a grand opening for the newly-completed middle and high school buildings on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 11 a.m. Bill Kalina photo

Dover Area School District's sixth-grade students did not return to the classroom Friday after district officials observed "an isolated increase in COVID-19 cases" among sixth graders. 

The sixth-grade students will work from home Friday and Monday, while seventh- and eighth-grade students at Dover Area Middle School will continue in-person classes, according to a Dover announcement. The time off will allow district custodians to sanitize sixth-grade classrooms. 

The middle school has recorded at least 18 COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days, more than any other Dover school, according to the district's website. In the current school year, the district has recorded 169 cases overall. 

More:A decade's effort: Take a look inside Dover Area School District's brand new high school and renovated middle school

The closure marks the second time during the 2021-22 school year that a York County school district has closed an individual grade instead of fully closing a school due to COVID-19. In October, Central York School District closed just fifth-grade classes at Sinking Springs Elementary, but later expanded the closure to the entire school when cases continued to spread. 

Prior to that, there had been three other full school closures because of COVID-19 during this school year in York County — at one school in Spring Grove Area School District and two schools in Northern York County School District. 

More:Central York expands Sinking Springs' COVID-19 closure to all grades, extends to Monday

More:As COVID-19 cases increase, even fewer schools are closing their doors

Classrooms are closing on a less frequent basis compared with the 2020-21 school year, when closures were an almost weekly occurrence. However, that doesn't mean COVID-19 transmission has slowed. In fact, COVID-19 appears to be spreading in schools at a faster pace than ever before. 

So far this school year, York County's public schools have recorded more than 2,600 COVID-19 cases, and they are on track to surpass last year's total cases in the next few weeks. The rate of spread indicates transmission in schools is at least double what it was last year. 

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Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, has said that many school districts are feeling the pressure to keep schools open, something most experts agree is the best option for students.

At the same time, Pennsylvania districts are under fewer state regulations than they were during the last school year. 

"It's hard to be a Monday morning quarterback on this," DiRocco has said. 

— Reach Erin Bamer at ebamer@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @ErinBamer.