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COVID-19 shutters West York school as several more York County districts reopen

Students arrive for the first day of classes at Eastern York Senior High School in Lower Windsor Township, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Four school districts in York County reopened for in-person classes Tuesday, a day after another shuttered one of its schools because of positive COVID-19 test results. 

On Monday, West York Area School District officials announced four cases reported this weekend — two at Trimmer Elementary and two at its middle school — which resulted in the shuttering of Trimmer Elementary for two weeks. 

A third case was announced Tuesday at West York's high school, but since it's in a self-contained classroom, there's no need to close the school, officials said. 

The school closure at West York preceded Tuesday's reopening of four districts for in-person classes — Dallastown Area, Dover Area, Eastern York and Northern York County — which have been shuttered since March. Logos Academy also reopened Tuesday.

Northern Superintendent Steven Kirkpatrick, when reached Tuesday, said he feels good about the district's chances of a successful reopening.

"I kind of think it’s unavoidable to a certain extent," he said of positive cases, noting it's hard to predict when they will crop up, but positivity rates for Northern zip codes, as calculated on state Department of Health maps, have been low.

Several local districts, recently reopened to in-person classes, reported positive cases over Labor Day weekend.

At least 10 schools from five different districts saw cases over the long weekend.

Red Lion Area, Central York, Hanover Public, South Western and West York Area all reported positive tests for COVID-19 among students, faculty or staff between Saturday and Monday.

The only school closure, however, was in West York. 

Trimmer had test results of one confirmed case come in on Sunday, and district officials were informed of another positive test on Monday, Superintendent Todd Davies said. Out of an "abundance of caution" and under consultation with the state Department of Health, officials closed the school until Sept. 21.

“Closing until the 21st will prevent the potential of multiple overlapping closures of classrooms and buses,” wrote Davies.

York County has held a moderate transmission designation since before schools reopened this fall, but numbers were slightly lower at that time.

Cases per 100,000 were around 70, and the percent positivity rate was close to 5%.

In the most recent seven-day period, the county saw 167 more positive cases than in the previous one. It is now at about 86 cases per 100,000 and a percent positivity rate of 7.9% for the period through Aug. 27.

If the county reaches a 10% or higher percent positivity rate and 100 or more cases per 100,000, the state’s recommendations are for districts to transition to a full-time remote learning model.

"What they’re doing is remarkably good considering the context," said York City Bureau of Health Medical Director Matthew Howie of school responses to cases.

COVID-19 data from previous weeks aren't Howie's main concern, he said. It's what happens going forward now that so many districts have reopened. 

South Western, which already shut down for a week from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4, has had the most school buildings affected so far, with cases in two of its elementary schools, its middle school and its high school.

More:A third COVID-19 case for South Western schools

Superintendent Jay Burkhart, when reached Tuesday afternoon, said there’s no hard and fast rule for closures but the state health department helps the district determine if a case is isolated.

“They don’t want us to react to something that happens in two days,” he said, but rather to look at a two-week window over time.