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South Western confirms COVID-19 case at high school

South Western High School in Penn Township, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

South Western announced Wednesday that the district had its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

"The individual who is the confirmed case is not in attendance at South Western High School today," said Superintendent Jay Burkhart in a statement.

The district's schools resumed classes Monday on a three-day hybrid schedule.

It is likely the first case in York County since several schools reopened for in-person instruction — whether in a hybrid or five-day model — this week and last week.

Ten districts and schools have already reopened buildings to students and staff, with a few more slated to open later this week.

South Western officials have been in contact with the state Department of Health and were advised not to close South Western High School at this time, according to the district's statement. 

More:Where they stand now: York County school reopening plans 2020

Instead, the district was advised to close, for 24 hours, any areas that had potential exposure and contact anyone who might have been exposed in the building and instruct them to quarantine for 14 days, officials said. For a person to be exposed, he or she would have to have been within 6 feet of the individual with the virus for at least 15 minutes.

District officials could not be reached Wednesday for further comment. 

The district's school board was scheduled to meet virtually at 7 p.m. Wednesday. 

Though it might be the first confirmed case since schools reopened for learning, South Western's is not the first quarantine at a school district in York County.

Dallastown Area’s school board nearly switched to a fully online model last week after 105 band camp students and eight staff members were ordered to quarantine for 14 days over close contact to a "probable" case of COVID-19.

More:Dallastown Area board rebuffs superintendent's recommendation against in-person classes

As administrators and school boards have planned for reopenings, they have struggled with health and safety guidance — at one moment asking for it from state officials and the next rejecting it for being too pointed.  

For many, it came in too late.

The benefits of in-person learning have been touted as socialization, relationship-building, facilitation of learning for younger students, and lessening of mental health concerns and child abuse at home, to name a few.

But messages from the state have been conflicting, with public health officials emphasizing the importance of bringing students back to school while not ignoring the risks of COVID-19 — which have not been eliminated.

In its most recent communications, the state suggested going fully virtual or hybrid if community spread was moderate — which would include any district in York County.

The teachers union at Central York this week said that district's reopening plan was unsafe and likely to fail. 

More:Central teachers union: Reopening doomed to fail

“When we bring students back — and we will — I want it to be successful,” West York Area Superintendent Todd Davies said at a recent meeting.

His district chose a hybrid model in lieu of a full reopening.