Lackawanna County school districts react to “Substantial” COVID-19 risk classification

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CARBONDALE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — We’re focusing tonight on Lackawanna County as coronavirus cases have been increasing over the last few weeks. The state Departments of Education and Health have been identifying counties with high community spread of the virus.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has been closely monitoring the community spread of COVID-19 across the commonwealth. Five local counties in our area have seen substantial spread of the virus. Eyewitness News spoke to local schools districts in Lackawanna County to see how their reactions are in regards to the state’s recommendations.

“Our numbers for the last week in Lackawanna County pushed us to “Substantial”. We are in anticipation that will happen again,” John Marichak, superintendent of the Dunmore School District, said.

Last week, Lackawanna, Bradford, Montour, Union and Schuylkill Counties were considered to have substantial spread of coronavirus. The Department of Education’s recommendation is if a county stays in the “Substantial” level for more than two weeks, school districts should operate as “all virtual”.

Marichak says other factors and variables go into the decision.

“We do understand that this is an attempt to stop the community spread, but some of the things discussed with the school board is that we’ve done an awful lot. We’ve spent a lot of resources and time toward mitigation,” he said.

Marichak says as of Wednesday night, the district plans to continue with the hybrid model.

“We want our children in school, we want our children safe and our staff to be safe. We want our parents to go out and make a living. So, those are all considerations that have to be brought to the table, and they are,” Marichak said.

At Carbondale Area School District, instruction has been virtual so far this year and the plan is to continue it.

“We will be following PDE and department of health’s guidelines and recommendations. If they come out and they say that we’re substantial for another week or even if this is a couple of weeks from now, we will be following those guidelines,” Holly Sayre, superintendent of the Carbondale Area School District, said.

Sayre says they are continuing to make modifications given these current circumstances.

“We’ve been making plans and adaptations to the situation and the community, the staff, the students, they’ve responded very well,” Sayre said.

Now the department of education will release an update to the Commonwealth on Friday. Both Sayre and Marichak say meetings will be held on Monday with the school board in order to plan for the next steps.

See the 4 other counties in our region fall into this same category.

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