Lehigh Valley school districts continue to adapt on the fly to COVID-19 cases, transmission levels

With both students and staff members at Phillipsburg High School and … that school districts in the “substantial” category offer a full remote learning …

Starting on Monday, two schools in the Phillipsburg School District will be moving to a remote learning method following a number of positive COVID-19 cases.

With both students and staff members at Phillipsburg High School and Phillipsburg Middle School testing positive for COVID-19, both schools will start a virtual-only schedule on Nov. 9. The shift will last until Nov. 19.

The announcement came via a letter from Phillipsburg School District Superintendent Gregory Troxell. On Wednesday, the district was notified of four total cases: a staff member at the Phillipsburg Childhood Learning Center, a staff member at PHS, a student at PHS and a district-wide staff member.

In two days since then, the district was notified of six more cases, all within the district’s middle and high schools.

Hello PHS. Please see Dr Troxell’s letter from last evening.

On Monday, Nov 9, we will move to remote instruction until Thursday, Nov 19. This is due to the need to quarantine staff, which impacts adequate staffing levels.

Remember, students will return on November 19th. pic.twitter.com/TBtNIEsvud

— PHSPrincipal Scanlon (@statelinerphs) November 7, 2020

Troxell said in the letter than the district is working with the Warren County Health Department and will be notifying anyone who was in close contact with the 10 individuals. Those who were in close contact, defined as within six feet for at least 15 minutes, will be directed to quarantine for 14 days.

Elsewhere across the Lehigh Valley, the Parkland School District is making the decision to remain at a hybrid level. Nazareth Area and Northampton Area high schools are closed next week, due to COVID0-19 cases.

On Friday, Lehigh County fell into the “substantial” category for community spread after the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated its early warning monitoring system, holding a 7.7% positivity rate. The Pennsylvania Department of Education recommends that school districts in the “substantial” category offer a full remote learning model.

However, it’s only a recommendation, and final decisions are made locally. Parkland announced on Friday that Superintendents of School Districts in Lehigh County met and, after consideration, decided to maintain the current hybrid level of learning. The decision will be reevaluated on a regular bases based on monitoring of data.

In Easton, however, the Easton Arts Academy Elementary Charter School is pushing back their hybrid learning date. Initially scheduled for Nov. 9, the Board of Trustees voted Thursday to postpone the date of a physical return to school until Jan. 4, 2021. The school will continue on its virtual model until then.