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EDITORIAL: 18 years and counting on science standards

York Dispatch editorial board
Northeastern High School's science lab is seen Wednesday, March 4, 2020.

Thumbs down to the indefensibly interminable time is has taken for Pennsylvania’s state Board of Education to update its public-school science standards.

While there has been some welcome movement lately, the current standards have been on the books since 2002, making them some of the oldest in the country.

The proposed, state-specific updates would sharpen the state’s K-12 curricula to focus more heavily on environment, ecology, technology and engineering. The new standards recognize the impact of human actions on natural systems — a science-based component that, hopefully, will not bog down the already-labyrinthine approval process.

More:Pandemic overshadows long-stalled overhaul of Pa. science standards

While the state Board of Ed has signed off on the new standards, they must still be approved by an independent commission with input from the state Legislature, which can propose a bill to derail the standards (which Gov. Tom Wolf can then veto). Confusing enough?

No surprise that the approval process is where last efforts to update the criteria have bogged down. Also no surprise; the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has not made navigating this process any easier.

Still, all parties must carry this long-delayed process through to completion. Eighteen years is an eternity in the world of science and technology, particularly in terms of the environment.

“Modernizing standards for how science is taught in schools is vital to the future success of students,” said Wolf.

Agreed. No, follow through!

Thumbs up to the surprise reunion of York County resident Alexis Regula and her long-lost toy fox terrier, Lucy.

And we mean loooooooooong lost! Lucy disappeared — are you sitting down? — back in 2011. That’s nine years — roughly two-thirds the average lifetime of Lucy’s breed (or half the time it’s been since Pennsylvania last overhauled its public-school science standards).

More:After 9 years, New Freedom woman reunites with her lost dog

Complicating matters: The pair were parted while Regula was living in Tennessee, more than 600 miles for her current New Freedom home.

The key to this happy ending? Lucy had a microchip, which was recently, albeit belatedly, scanned back in Tennessee. Regula’s mom, Ame Kessler, who was listed as a secondary contact on Lucy’s records and got the call from officials, believes it’s likely a different family had Lucy for years without ever checking for the microchip.

“It’s almost like a miracle,” she told the Dispatch, “but this is the reason why you should always microchip your dog and never give up hope.”

Thumbs down to the lack of transparency at the recent arraignment of a public official.

Mike Cleveland, former general manager at the York City Ice Arena, came before District Judge Linda Williams last week on charges that he stole nearly $23,000 from the ice rink over a number of years.

But Judge Williams, citing public-health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and arguing that arraignments aren’t public hearings, refused to allow members of the local media to attend.

More:York County's top judge weighs in on district judge closing public hearing

More:UPDATE: Theft charges filed in nearly 3-year York City Ice Arena investigation

Arraignments not public hearings? This was news to the reporters, not to mention York County’s top judge, President Judge Joseph C. Adams.

In another happy ending, he asserted that arraignments are, indeed, open to the media, within the bounds of public-safety considerations during the ongoing pandemic, and said he communicated that information to Judge Williams.

Hard to believe the veteran district judge, who oversees criminal, traffic, and civil cases among other matters, needed the reminder but good to know it was delivered.