DTSD, HSS and COVID-19/Coronavirus: Regular Updates Here

The Broadcaster staff will be posting regular updates on the coronavirus pandemic.  We will focus on Derry Township School District and Hershey High School, but will cover the impact on the world outside Hershey.

COVID-19+virus+is+pictured+in+an+artists+rendering.++%28US+State+Department%29

COVID-19 virus is pictured in an artists rendering. (US State Department)

Our goal is to provide clear information on what is going on: what to do to stay safe, how to avoid misinformation and rumors, what events have been cancelled, and more.

Education updates: Keystones off, AP exams are at-home, and no online teaching from DTSD teachers

By: Eva Baker and Clare Canavan

To help prevent the spread of the virus, the Pennsylvanian government declared no public school for 10 business days to decrease the spread of the virus. They will not be penalized for not having 180 school days, and therefore, not have to make up the missed school days. As of March 20, 2020, students will go back to school as normal on March 30th, but this could potentially change in the upcoming days.

During the time off, Hershey High School is using online resources to interact with their students. The school recognizes the importance of in class learning and has dedicated these two weeks to only reviewing skills according to Hershey High’s website. There will be no out of school learning, only reviewing. 

“We will not be delivering new instruction remotely to students during this period,” according to the DTSD website.

Teachers compiled a list of resources for students to review information, and is available on the district website with resources for each grade. The important aspect is to review the skills so as to not forget the material they learned during the two weeks. Students can review notes, contact teachers, use Khan Academy, and canvas to help remember what they learned. 

Also, on March 19, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has cancelled all statewide assessments for students. The PSSA testing was scheduled to begin April 20, 2020, and Keystone testing was scheduled to begin on May 11, 2020. 

According to Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera, “Schools are making extraordinary efforts to remain connected to students and families, to provide food service and to put appropriate systems in place to continue student learning. Assessments should not be the focus of school leaders right now.” 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education says that they will be releasing information to schools on how they will be accountable for school reporting for the 2019-2020 school year as soon as it becomes available. 

In addition to the statewide exams being canceled, on a national level the College Board announced on March 20, 2020 that there exams for the 2019-2020 school year will be done online. 

According to the College Board these tests will be “a 45-minute online exam at home. Educator-led development committees are currently selecting the exam questions that will be administered.” 

The tests will cover the topics that most AP teachers have already covered in class by early March. College Board is now offering free resources during this time to any students taking the test, and this includes live review sessions with AP teachers around the country. Additionally, the College Board is also giving refunds to students who no longer wish to take the exams, and they plan to help students who do not have the resources to take online exams. 

For many Hershey students and teachers, this will affect how they teach the rest of the school year. Many AP classes are taught to match the material of the test, so this poses the question of will this material still be taught by Hershey High School teachers either online or in the classroom. 

Published March 20, 2020 at 5:49 pm

CDC analysis: 20% of hospitalized patients in US are age 20-44

By: Robert Sterner, advisor

The Centers for Disease Control released a preliminary analysis that showed higher than expected hospitalization rates.

Of those hospitalized “17% were aged 55–64 years, 18% were 45–54 years, and 20% were aged 20–44 years,” according to the CDC report.  This data was drawn from all 50 states, D.C. and three US territories between February 12 and March 16.

Following the release of the report, the Pennsylvania Department of Health again asked Pennsylvanians to stay home.

The CDC was blunt in their assessment of who is most at risk.  “The risk for serious disease and death in COVID-19 cases among persons in the United States increases with age,” according to the report.

“Approximately 49 million U.S. persons are aged 65 years” or older and most at risk to COVID-19 according to the CDC.  Social distancing is still recommended as the best and easiest option to exercise at the moment to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Liz Specht, Associate Director of Science & Technology at the Good Food Institute, writing in Stat News put the need for social distancing into stark terms.  “At a 10% hospitalization rate, all hospital beds in the U.S. will be filled by about May 10,” Specht wrote. “And with many patients requiring weeks of care, turnover will slow to a crawl as beds fill with COVID-19 patients.”

Published March 20, 2020 at 2:42 pm

PIAA postpones spring sports until at least March 29 due to coronavirus

By: Leah Koppenhaver, Head News Editor

Following Governor Tom Wolf’s order to close all schools for 10 business days beginning March 16, 2020, the beginning of the spring sports seasons is postponed until at least March 29, 2020. 

On Monday, March 16, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) released a statement reiterating that all games and practices will be canceled until further notice. 

Any organized practices are strongly discouraged in order to prevent further spreading of the virus and limit unnecessary gatherings, “this is contrary to the intent of the Governor’s order and these activities are not permitted,” according to the statement made by PIAA. 

Community centers, gyms, golf courses, and athletic fields have been closed across Pennsylvania, also following the orders of Wolf in closing any non-essential businesses.  

Hershey Boys Tennis already played two matches in the week prior to the shutdown and was off to an early 2-0 start, defeating both Cedar Cliff and Cumberland Valley 5-0. 

Boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, baseball, and softball were to have their first games Friday, March 20, which are now all postponed. 

The PIAA will work alongside the office of the Governor, the Department of Health, and the Department of Education in order to make decisions regarding the continuation of spring sports and the completion of several PIAA winter championships that have been postponed. 

According to the statement, “This information may change on a day to day basis… We will provide more information as it becomes available to us.”

Published March 19, 2020 at 2:35 pm

Interview with Dr. Erin O’Brien about her experience getting tested for COVID-19

Video by: Maeve Reiter

Published March 19, 2020 at 2:01 pm

Researchers across the globe search for COVID-19 treatments in old drugs

By: Robert Sterner, advisor

Scientists and medical experts say a vaccine is many months away, but some old drugs might offer short-term help.

Researchers worldwide are desperately searching for treatments to alleviate the symptoms and cure victims of the coronavirus pandemic.  One method of finding new treatments is to look at drugs already in production to see if they have properties that will help. According to Science News, in China over 300 studies and thousands more around the globe are in progress to find treatments and cures for COVID-19.  Researchers believe they may have two that fit the bill.

Pictured is a chemical model of chloroquine. First developed in 1934, chloroquine is one possible treatment for COVID-19 being explored by researchers. (Public Domain)

The first possible treatment is Chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug.  First developed in 1934 by German pharmaceutical firm Bayer, chloroquine became a front-line drug in the battle against malaria.  Malaria, a fever caused by a parasite that invades red blood cells and is transmitted by mosquitoes, is primarily found in tropical and subtropical regions.  Military operations during the Spanish-American War, the World War II and later Vietnam were all impacted by malaria.

Chloroquine has been found to be “[…] a potent inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection and spread,” according to a 2005 study in Virology Journal.  Treatment with the drug “either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage.” This means the drug could be used both as a preventative measure to stop new infections from occurring and as a treatment for those infected.

Chloroquine was used by South Korean physicians in treating SARS, another coronavirus, to some positive effect according to Elsevier.  However, “[a]ccording to these physicians, antiviral medications are not recommended for use in young, healthy patients with mild symptoms and no underlying […] conditions.”

As yet, no large scale human trials have been completed for the use of chloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.  Thus far only one small trial, on 24 patients in France, has been conducted. However, the results were promising, according to EN24. 75 percent of patients were free of coronavirus after chloroquine treatment for 6 days against only 10 percent who were free of coronavirus in a control group.  This was a non-randomized, “open label” test, so the results are suspect and not scientifically valid despite their promise.  

Nevertheless the researchers and medical professionals believe it may be a powerful stop-gap drug that is affordable, effective, and proven safe on humans while a vaccine is developed. 

Axios reports Bayer is readying “a large donation to the U.S. government” of chloroquine.  Bayer has yet to make any public comment.

President Trump said in a briefing on March 19, 2020 that the US Food and Drug Administration had approved chloroquine for use against COVID-19.  However,  Bloomberg reporter Anna Edney among others are reporting this is not true.  “FDA has NOT approved malaria drug chloroquine for COVID-19, an FDA spokesperson confirms to me,” Edney tweeted.

A second drug that has been suggested as a COVID-19 treatment is RetroMAD1.  Developed as a treatment for feline leukemia virus, “one of the most common infectious diseases in cats, affecting between 2 and 3% of all cats in the United States” according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.  The media survival time for cats infected with the feline leukemia virus is 2.5 years.

Malaysian pharmaceutical maker Biovalence is currently testing RetroMAD1 as a broad spectrum antiviral medication and “1 is currently undergoing preclinical development for the treatment of Dengue fever.”

RetroMAD1’s testing and distribution may be made more difficult as Malaysia has enacted a 14-day movement control order beginning March 18, 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19 according to the Straits Times.

And despite the promise RetroMAD1 presents, a Biovalence spokesman told the South China Post, “It is not a vaccine, however, so cannot be used on healthy individuals to prevent them from getting infected.”

Advisor’s note: As always consult your primary physician regarding any health questions.

Published March 19, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Cocoa Packs relocates during COVID-19, but continues to serve community

By: Clare Canavan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

During the Derry Township School District closures, Cocoa Packs is moving from the Hershey Middle School to Spring Creek Church of the Brethren on East Areba. Cocoa Packs will be operating out of the Spring Creek Church until the school district re-opens, according to the Cocoa Packs website. 

Cocoa Packs is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for the next two weeks, as of right now the time that the school is closed, from 10am to 6pm. 

The non-profit that provides weekend food assistance to families is modifying their mission to provide emergency food boxes to current recipients and any other child that needs assistance. These food boxes will include grab and go breakfasts and lunches. 

Derry Township School District is working collaboratively with Cocoa Packs to ensure that children are given the proper meals during their time off of school. 

According from a message the school sent to families in the District, “We are working collaboratively through our community partnership with Cocoa Packs, who will be facilitating the delivery of these meals in conjunction with the additional food assistance they provide students for students.” 

Derry Township school staff has helped Cocoa Packs relocate after the announcement of school closures. Also, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank connected Cocoa Packs with the Hershey Lodge, and the Lodge has delivered extra milk, orange, juice and yogurt to the organization. 

On Cocoa Packs’ Facebook, there is information on how an individual can help the organization during this time of crisis. Donations are accepted at one of the 4 collection boxes, located at Karns, Hershey Elementary School, Hershey Middle School, and Spring Creek Church. The organization is primarily looking for Pasta, Pasta Sauce, Applesauce, Canned fruit and vegetables, Rice, Peanut Butter, Bread, and Cereal to be donated. 

Cocoa Packs also is accepting a financial contribution to their website, Venmo, or check.

Published March 18, 2020, at 2:31 pm

CDC recommends cancel, postpone gatherings of 50+ nationwide for 8 weeks

By: Robert Sterner, Advisor

The Centers for Disease Control amended its recommendations for large gatherings on March 15, 2020.

“CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”

Additionally, the CDC advised that all organizers should modify events so they may be done online virtually.

The aim of this new guideline was to limit the introduction of COVID-19 into communities where none exists as of yet.

The guidance does not replace previous CDC guidelines for schools and businesses.

Published March 15, 2020 8:55 pm

Researchers find COVID-19 survives 2-3 days on plastic and steel, virus “shedding” from patients 8 to 37 days

By: Robert Sterner, advisor

Pictured is a file photo of the NIH’s Laboratory of Virology, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Hamilton, Montana. Researchers at the NIH found COVID-19 is viable for several days on steel and plastic surfaces. (Glassdoor)

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s Laboratory of Virology in Hamilton, Montana and Princeton University led a team to discover how long COVID-19 survives on various surfaces.  Also a new study published in Lancet found patients with COVID-19 “shed” the virus for about 20 days on average.

Neeltje van Doremalen and Trenton Bushmaker of the NIH’s Labortory of Virology and Dylan H. Morris of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University found COVID-19 had similar properties to COVID-1, also known as SARS.

Their study found that aerosolized samples of COVID-19 could survive for up to three hours in aerosol form, that is floating in the air.  Additionally it could survive for different lengths of time on surfaces.

“We found that viable virus could be detected […] up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel,” the study said.

The Lancet study of COVID-19 viral shedding, the expulsion and release of virus progeny following successful reproduction during a host-cell infection, was conducted on 191 patients in China.

A research team led by Fei Zhou, Ting Yu, Ronghui Du, Guohui Fan, Ying Liu, Zhibo Liu found the viral shedding ranged from eight to 37 days with the median being 20 days.  This means patients, even those showing minimal symptoms as may occur in younger and healthier individuals, can spread COVID-19 for perhaps over 5 weeks.

“Prolonged viral shedding,” the authors wrote, “provides the rationale for a strategy of isolation of infected patients and optimal antiviral interventions in the future.”

Published March 15, 2020, 8:51 am

20 US States, DC, Puerto Rico shutter schools to slow spread of COVID-19

By: Robert Sterner, advisor

The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have closed their public schools. Additionally, the twenty states have as of March 14, 2020 at 7:22 pm announced closures.  The states and other US territories impacted are listed below with enrollment data from Education Week:

  1. Alabama
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 744,164
  2. Alaska
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment:131,176
  3. District of Columbia
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 80,958
  4. Delaware
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 134,042
  5. Florida
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 2,756,944
  6. Illinois
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 2,050,239
  7. Kentucky
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 688,640
  8. Louisiana
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 716,800
  9. Maryland
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 874,514
  10. Michigan
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 1,537,922
  11. New Mexico
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 340,365
  12. North Carolina
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 1,548,895
  13. Pennsylvania
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 1,743,160
  14. Puerto Rico
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 365,139
  15. Ohio
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 1,724,810
  16. Oregon
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 601,318
  17. South Dakota
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 133,040
  18. Utah
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 635,577
  19. Virginia
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 1,280,381
  20. Washington
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 1,073,638
  21. West Virginia
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 280,310
  22. Wisconsin
    • Preschool, k-12 enrollment: 871,432

Total number of students impacted: 20,313,554

Published March 14, 2020 at 7:22 pm

Pennsylvania School Boards Association calls on Governor, Legislature for additional accommodations

By Robert Sterner, advisor

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association tweeted earlier today asking the Governor and General Assembly to make several accommodations to ease the burden on schools during the coronavirus crisis.

First, the PSBA asked for the “180 day mandate” to be waived.  This refers to the requirement under PA law for each school to either operate for 180 days or “the Secretary of Education shall authorize, without need of application, each school entity to have the option of computing instructional time on an hourly basis, rather than a daily basis, of nine hundred (900) hours for elementary and nine hundred ninety (990).”

The waiver of 180 days may already have been authorized in Governor Wolf’s address of the issue of whether these missed days will need to be made up or not once school is back in session.  “[…]no school district will be penalized if it fails to meet the 180 day or school hours requirements,” Wolf said on March 13, 2020 during his announcement of the school closures.

The PSBA also asked that the “flexible instructional day program” be expanded.  The Flexible Instructional Day Program (FID) came into being when Act 64 of 2019, section 1506 was added to the Public School Code of Pennsylvania.  “FIDs can support the public school entities in cases when circumstances (e.g., a disease epidemic, a hazardous weather condition […]) prevent the delivery of instruction in its customary manner or location,” according to the PA Department of Education website.

At present, however, the FID program only allows for five school days to be made up online.  Act 64 of 2019 states that the FID days “[…] not to exceed five (5) days during a school year.”  This would require additional legislation to amend.

The PSBA additionally asked the Governor to apply with the federal government for a waiver for mandated testing such as the Keystone Exam and the Pennsylvania System School Assessment(PSSA).  The US Department of Education released a fact sheet on March 12, 2020 that offered guidance to schools impacted by COVID-19.  In areas impacted by closings during the testing window, the US Department of Education “would consider a targeted one-year waiver of the assessment requirements for those schools impacted by the extraordinary circumstances.”

Pictured is a screenshot taken March 14, 2020 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website listing the testing window for the PSSA. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has asked Governor Wolf to seek a waiver from the federal government.

The spring testing window for the Keystone Exams are May 13-24, 2019, according to the PA Department of Education.

The final three items the PSBA asked for were less tied to specific statues or federal law and largely ones of financial need.  “[P]romote special need student supports” is vague.  However, by shifting instructional delivery to an online only model during the school closure period special education students are likely to be the most impacted.

Next the PSBA asked the Governor and General Assembly to “secure financial support for districts.”  The shut down of schools ordered by Governor Wolf is likely putting financial stress on many school districts and their staff.  Hourly workers may not be paid unless they work.  This may include bus drivers, maintenance and custodial staff, educational support teachers, secretaries, and more.

Lastly the PSBA asked for “virtual public meeting capabilities.”  It was unclear if this was meant for administrative level work such as school board meetings or as a delivery of instruction method or even both.  There are several virtual meeting capabilities that exist and are affordable.  For example, Zoom, a video conferencing software developed by Microsoft, does offer a free tier that allows for meetings of up to 100 participants with a limit of 40 minutes per meeting.

Published March 14, 2020 7:04 pm

Arts and Movies postponing or cancelling due to Coronavirus

By: Clare Canavan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Coronavirus outbreak is creating a negative effect on the entertainment industry in Hollywood, New York City, and around the world. Movie releases, concerts, music festivals, and entertainment conventions are being postponed or cancelled because of government officials warning citizens to avoid gatherings over 50 people. Below is  a list of the major events being cancelled or postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  This list was updated March 14, 2020 at 2:04 pm.

Movies

With Movie theatre closed around the world, many countries like Italy and China would no longer be able to play these new Blockbusters. Also, government officials are discouraging people from mass gatherings, like movie theaters.  Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf advised “strongly encourages the suspension of large gatherings, events, conferences of 250 individuals or more” in an address to the state on March 12, 2020. 

This is creating a trend where movies are pushing back their premiers and releases. 

“Mulan” 

“Mulan,” a live action remake of the Disney princess movie, has delayed its release date. The movie was set to release on March 27, but now, a new release date has not been announced. According to Business Insider, the movie “cost a hefty $200 million to produce and with theaters in China — which would have been a major market for the movie — still closed, its global box office could have taken a huge hit if released in other markets.” Disney also pushed back the release date for 3 of their other upcoming movies. 

“No Time to Die”

The first major  movie to change their release date was the Paramount, James Bond move, “No Time to Die.” The movie changed it’s release date from April 2020  to November 2020. The movie will be released on November 12, 2020 in the United Kingdom and the United States on November 25, 2020. According to IndieWire, this will be the third time this movies release date has been postponed. 

“Peter the Rabbit 2” 

“Peter the Rabbit 2,” a movie meant to be released around the time of Easter, has pushed back both their European and United States release date. The European release date was rescheduled to August 7 from the original April 27. The movie produced by Sony is expected to take a major hit because of the festive movie will no longer be released on the Pre-Easter weekend, the time when the Easter Bunny will be visiting children around the world. 

“F9” 

Universal has pushed back the release of the ninth “Fast and Furious” movie from May 22, 2020 to April 2, 2021. “It’s become clear that it won’t be possible for all of our fans around the world to see the film this May,” said a statement on Twitter from the Fast and Furious 9 account. 

Concerts

Many Artists are canceling and rescheduling their spring leg of their tours in countries around the world. Artists including, Zac Brown Band, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Green Day, and Khalid. 

In addition to individual artists cancelling their shows, venues are closing down for all activity. Venues, including the Lincoln Theater and the Anthem, are canceling shows until March 31st, and they will reevaluate about opening on that day. 

Music Festivals around the country are also being postponed or cancelled. According to Goldenvoice Twitter Account, Coachella will now take place on October 9, 10 and 11 and October 16, 17 and 19, 2020. Stagecoach will take place on October 23, 24 and 25, 2020. All purchases for the April dates will be honored for the rescheduled October dates. Purchasers will be notified by Friday, March 13 on how to obtain a refund if they are unable to attend.” This announcement followed three confirmed coronavirus cases in the area of Coachella. 

To see a complete list of concerts and music related events cancelled with specific details, check out Billboard.com

Theater

Broadway 

Along with the Metropolitan Opera, the Metropolitan Museum and Carnegie Hall, Broadway is going dark until Sunday, April 12, 2020. The last time Broadway closed or went dark was on September 11, 2001. New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, said “I don’t want to see Broadway go dark if we can avoid it. I want to see if we can strike some kind of balance.” 

Broadway in New York City is pictured on a busy day in 2016. Broadway’s theater district is the heart of live theater in America. (Shutter Runner/CC BY-NC 2.0)

Hershey Theatre 

In Hershey, Hershey Theatre is canceling and rescheduling performances. Nate Bargatze shows has been postponed from April 4, 2020 to June 10, 2020. Also, Britt Floyd’s show is postponed until August 6 and 7, 2020. The theatre is honoring tickets that were already purchased, and they are refunding tickets. 

The Theathre’s twitter account released a statement saying, “We will deepen our collaboration with health and government officials, so we are prepared to take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure the safety of our guests and team members.”

Parades

With Saint Patrick’s Day parades planned around the country for the upcoming weeks, cities are cancelling their annual Irish parade. New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Savannah, and Scranton are cancelling what are annually among the largest parades in the United States.

The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been cancelled for the first time in its 258 year history.  A press release from the Board of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade said, “We look forward to working with the Mayor and his staff to celebrate our 259th parade at a later date.”

Published March 14, 2020, 2:21 pm

NBA, NHL and other professional sports suspended suspended due to COVID-19

By: Dan Hogan, sports reporter

We are keeping track of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting professional sports across the country. This list was last updated at 12:00 pm Saturday, March 14.

NBA:

  • Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert becomes first player to test positive for the coronavirus, leading to Utah’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to be postponed – just prior to tip off of the game on Wednesday night, according to ESPN.
  • NBA suspends its season until further notice – just after 9:30 Wednesday night, according to a press release from the NBA.
  • Commissioner Adam Silver confirms the NBA hiatus will be “at least 30 days” – 8:30 pm Thursday while talking with NBA on TNT.

https://twitter.com/NBAonTNT/status/1238261288817623041?s=20 

MLB:

NHL:

NFL: 

  • NFL does not delay start of season on March 18, but cancels annual meeting scheduled from March 29 through April 1, according to ESPN.

MLS: 

MLR: 

  • US Major League Rugby announced the suspension of its season for 30 days via a press release.

Golf:

NBA Players and Owners pledge to cover their team’s area hourly worker pay

  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Pistons forward Blake Griffin each pledged $100,000 to their team’s arena staff, according to Sports Illustrated
  • Owners of Hawks, Nets, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Pacers, 76ers, Wizards, Bucks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Knicks, and Suns all announce they will compensate their arena’s part time employees, according to Sports Illustrated.

Published March 14, 2020, 1:55 pm

PA Governor Wolf closes schools statewide for 2 weeks

By Robert Sterner, advisor

In an address to the state, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the closure of all schools statewide for two weeks as the total number of coronavirus cases hit 41.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announces the closure of all schools in the Commonwealth for two weeks on March 13, 2020. The closure directive includes all public, “brick-and-mortar” charter schools and all private school are encouraged to consider closure. (Office of the Governor of Pennsylvania)

“Yesterday I announced the start of significant social distancing in Montgomery County and starting tomorrow, we will expand these mitigation efforts to Delaware County,” Gov. Wolf said, “We also will be closing all schools statewide for two weeks starting Monday.”

Derry Township Schools are among those impacted by the closure.

According to a message posted on the DTSD website, “Over the course of the next week, administration, faculty and staff will be refining our plan for delivering education. Teachers will be preparing for at home learning to begin on Monday, March 23, 2020.”  The message provided no guidance as to how teachers would continue the education of HHS students.

The release from DTSD said, “Further communications will be forthcoming over the next week as this is an evolving situation.”

Governor Wolf did address the issue of whether these missed days will need to be made up or not once school is back in session.  “[…]no school district will be penalized if it fails to meet the 180 day or school hours requirements,” Wolf said on March 13, 2020 during his announcement of the school closures.

All sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities that use DTSD facilities are cancelled through March 27, 2020.

The Milton Hershey School is adhering to the governor’s advice and closing on March 16; however, teachers will report on Monday.  MHS had previously announced the cancellation of their Alumni Fellowship Weekend slated to take place April 3 and 4.

All neighboring public schools are also closed: Lower Dauphin, Palmyra, Central Dauphin, and Elizabethtown.

The Broadcaster will post updates on how education will continue at Hershey High School as well as the rest of DTSD during the closure when we have it.

Published March 14, 2020 10:17 am

Walk for Clean Water postponed

The following information was provided to the staff of HHS by Principal Jeff Smith on Thursday, March 12, 2020 via email:

The 5th Annual HHS Walk for Clean Water scheduled for Sunday, April 5 will be postponed. Liz and Amy will be working on selecting a new date and will share the new date once a decision has been made.

Since we are postponing the walk, we will also be postponing the assembly. The assembly will be rescheduled closer to the new walk date.

Published March 12, 2020, 3:09 pm

PA Governor Tom Wolf recommends cancelling or postponing gatherings of 250 or more

By: Robert Sterner, advisor

Governor Tom Wolf announced three statewide actions to help limit the spread of coronavirus in Pennsylvania at a press conference March 12, 2020.  The following are direct quotes from the governor:

  1. “I’m strongly encouraging all large gatherings, especially those of 250 or more attendees, to be either cancelled or postponed.”
  2. “I’m discouraging people from going to recreational activities in public places like gyms, movie theaters, and stores.”
  3. “I’m asking religious leaders to use their discretion to prevent the spread of illness through their congregations and their communities.”

The limits will be in place for two weeks the governor said.

“These actions may seem severe,” said Governor Wolf, “but they are far less draconian than we may have to do in the future if we don’t act now.”

The governor’s press conference came as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put in place a ban on all gatherings of over 500.  This would include shuttering all 41 Broadway theaters, cancelling parades, and more.

Published March 12, 2020, 3:01 pm

 

How to decrease your risk

By: Robert Sterner, Advisor

The first stop for good information on how to protect yourself and your family from the spread of coronavirus is the Centers for Disease Control(CDC).  While no vaccine currently exists for COVID-19, there are many preventative measures that you can take.

Screenshot taken 3/12/2020 from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html

 

Screenshot taken 2/12/2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html

 

Washing your hands regularly can be one of the simplest and best first steps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Published: March 12, 2020, 1:30 pm

Message to DTSD students and parents

By: Robert Sterner, Advisor

The following message was sent to all students and parents of DTSD from Superintendent Joe McFarland on March 11, 2020.

Because we are committed to the health and well-being of our students, staff and community, Derry Township School District continues to navigate the ever-evolving circumstance associated with the spread of Coronavirus (specifically COVID-19). With COVID-19 recently being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, I wanted to touch base with you once again.

In the District’s All Hazards Incident Response Plan, our approach to any public health emergency is largely based on following guidance or directives issued from public health agencies such as the PA Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

At this time, those agencies are not recommending schools in communities without confirmed or presumptive cases implement special measures beyond preparedness and the usual suggestions for limiting the spread of illness, such as the classroom sanitation practices we already routinely implement. 

Here is what we are doing:

Preventative Measures

At all levels – elementary through high school – we have been emphasizing with students the importance of basic preventative measures to limit the spread of illness.  You can help by also reinforcing these directly with your family members:

 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday twice!), especially before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper sleeve, not your hands or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Refrain from shaking hands, high fiving, etc.   
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Preparedness

  • In the same manner as we did during the avian flu and swine flu outbreaks in past years, the District is actively monitoring national and regional developments.  At this time, our District is at the “preparedness” level, meaning that while there are no presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our student body or community, we continue to engage with local and state agencies.
  • Additionally, we are actively monitoring student and staff absenteeism rates for trends and patterns. All of this information is included in a daily report that is provided to administrators and our nursing staff.

Facilities and Buses

  • Our Buildings and Grounds Staff is focused on daily sanitation of “high touch” areas such as door knobs, railings, and handles. They are likewise paying special cleaning attention to sensitive spaces like nurses’ offices. 
  • The following preventative steps are being performed to combat germs etc. on DTSD school buses and vans: seats, handrails and window areas are thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant twice a week, drivers are using disinfectant wipes to help with keeping highly touched areas sanitized and disinfected on a daily basis, and efforts are being made to instruct students not to share items or touch one other (no shaking hands, high fives, etc.). These preventions have been in place since the start of the regular flu season.

Events

  • As we continue to act in the best interest of our students and staff, we are looking at each one of our upcoming student field trips and staff development conferences. To date, we have cancelled one trip to an area where health officials are encouraging social distancing and altered the trip itinerary of another excursion to eliminate a visit to that same area.
  • Nationally, we are seeing a variety of programs being cancelled by organizers.  So far, I am not aware of any such instances having a significant direct impact on our plans, but this is obviously a fluid and sometimes rapidly changing situation.
  • With no presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our community, public health agencies’ guidelines do not call for the cancellation of public events or in-school gatherings.
  • In addition to guidance from public health agencies, we also rely on other entities such as the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association for relevant guidance.  At this time, there has been no indication that extra-curricular activities, including athletics, should be curtailed.

As I noted earlier, details regarding COVID-19 continue to change and as they do, our approach to specific circumstances will evolve – perhaps without much advance notice.  One of the dangers presented by the emergence of COVID-19 is a general sense of fear, the spread of which can seem in many cases to be outpacing the virus itself. As we move forward, please continue to be confident that we consider the well-being of those in our charge to be our highest priority. The actions we have taken to this point and those that we will take in the future will all be thoughtful, intentional, and in the best interest of those we serve.

 

Sincerely,

Joseph McFarland

Superintendent of Schools

Published March 12, 2020, 1:43 pm