With the number of COVID-19 cases growing in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf shut down all K-12 schools in Pennsylvania and state-licensed day care and adult day care centers, including those in Delaware County, for two weeks, effective Monday, March 16.
“We understanding that these are trying times and recognize the impact of the coronavirus on our students and communities," Wolf said. "First and foremost, my top priority as governor - and that of our education leaders - must be to ensure the health and safety of our students and school communities. As such, I am ordering that all schools in the commonwealth close for the next two weeks."
The governor stated that no school district would be penalized if if fails to meet the 180-day or school hour requirement.
He added that the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced it received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow eligible schools to serve meals to low-income students in a non-congregate setting such as a drive-through or grab-and-go. Delaware County Council Vice Chairman Dr. Monica Taylor said the county's Department of Emergency Management would be helping to coordinate a distribution plan.
Unions representing many school employees and officials including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the Pennsylvania Principals Association issued a statement in support of the shutdown.
"The spread of coronavirus across Pennsylvania, the United States, and the globe is unprecedented and has required difficult decisions to be made," it read. "The immense challenges presented by this virus have forced difficult and necessary decisions to ensure the health and welfare of the commonwealth’s citizens.
"We agree that this action will create an ability for better social distancing, which helps prevent the spread of the virus, and will provide schools with the opportunity to further address facility cleaning and prepare for instruction going forward, along with other outstanding issues," it continued.
On March 13 the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced the identification of five new presumed coronavirus cases in Delaware County, bringing the total to six. So far, the statewide total is 33, with the bulk of the cases in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
"It is important for everyone to remember that this is a very rapidly changing situation," Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "We're monitoring the situation throughout the state very, very closely ... most of the cases have been in the Southeast, although not exclusively in the Southeast, and so we are going to monitor that really, really carefully and help any county with their response."
Shortly after the Governor's announcement, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed all of its high schools, parish and regional elementary schools, schools of special education, PREP programs and early learning centers for two weeks through March 27. However, classes will continued through flexible and online instruction. All extra-curricular and co-curricular activities such as retreats and athletic events on and off grounds, field trips and social events had previously been cancelled and that now extends through March 27.
The archdiocese has created a special task force to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on Catholic education.
In a statement signed from AOP Superintendent for Secondary Schools Sister Maureen L. McDermott, AOP Superintedent for Elementary Schools Andrew McLaughlin and the Deputy Secretary for Cathetical Formation Ann Menna, "Matters are being evaluated on a daily, if not hourly basis. This decision to adopt this course of action was not made lightly. It came only after careful thought, planning consideration and prayer."
They continued, "This moment of national crisis presents a moment for us, as a community of faith, to come together in prayerful solidarity to support one another and lend assistance to the most vulnerable in our midst while doing our best to maintain our daily routines. We know this is a difficult time for our school families."
PECO also announced that in light of COVID-19, it would be suspending service discontinuations and waiving new late payment charges through at least May 1.
On March 12, the governor ordered the shut down of all schools, community centers and entertainment venues in Montgomery County, as well as gyms and many public gatherings. Hospitals, supermarkets and drug stores remain open.
Last week, the first cases of coronavirus were identified in Pennsylvania.
Since then, the governor has declared an emergency in the commonwealth.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness identified by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic with more than 125,000 cases worldwide as of Thursday and 4,613 deaths. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is reporting 1,629 cases in 46 states and the District of Columbia with 47 deaths.