DANVILLE — Danville Area students will stay home until Jan. 18, after all.
School district officials had considered having students return to in-person classes on Monday, but after seeing higher COVID case numbers in the past few days and talking with health officials at Geisinger and Evangelical Community Hospital, Superintendent Ricki Boyle told the school board on Wednesday night that she recommended keeping the previously determined return date.
The board decided at its Dec. 2 meeting to continue remote learning until Jan. 15 and resume alternating in-person attendance on Jan. 18. With some easing of COVID cases and state quarantine restrictions last week, the district officials considered returning a week earlier.
"I think our decision to have students return on the 18th is the best," she said Wednesday night during the special board meeting available online.
The board later in the meeting rejected a motion by board member Kyle Gordon to move the teachers in-service day from Jan. 22 to Monday and have high school and middle school students return on Tuesday. That motion failed by a 6-2 vote, with only Gordon and Jennifer Gurski voting yes, despite the board voting 5-3 earlier to alter the calendar. Christina Fish, Yohannes Getachew and Derl Reichard voted no in the earlier vote. Bonnie Edmeads was absent.
Boyle said that of the students and staff in the district's buildings, more than two dozen have been quarantined because they were around someone with COVID and about a dozen were isolated because they tested positive.
She said there is a concern by health officials about another post-holiday surge.
"Every one of our buildings have significant numbers," she said, adding the numbers are significant enough that if the schools were open, the state Departmen of Health would recommend closing for a few days for a thorough cleaning.
Board President Chris Huron said he is a proponent of getting students back into school, but after conversations with health officials and seeing data, he also is concerned about a potential spike in cases.
After Boyle said school officials have to consider numbers in both Montour and Nortumberland counties because the district includes parts of both, Gordon said Northumberland County's numbers shouldn't be considered because the district has no buildings there. But parent Glenn Heffelfinger, of Danville, suggested via Zoom that a week might not be long enough to stay out. He disagreed with Gordon's assessment that numbers in Northumberland County, of which Riverside and Rush Township are in the district, shouldn't be considered because students come from there.
"You kinda got to look at that a little bit," Heffelfinger said.
His said his daughter is enrolled in the online Bridge program because, "I'm compromised and my other half is. If we catch this, we’re done."
Teacher Greg Angstadt Williams, who was in the meeting room, was concerned about the basketball team "traveling all over and coming back into school."
In an unrelated action, the board passed a resolution not to increase real estate taxes above the Act 1 index of 3.5 percent in the 2021-2022 budget. District Business Manager Bobbi Ely said that percentage equaled $524,000.
Both Ely and Huron emphasized that did not mean the board planned to raise taxes, just that if it does, the increase would not exceed that limit.