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West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Preparing for the fourth
Red, white and blue in bloom around the Borough.

With so much going on around town. Catch up on what you may have missed.  

It’s Friday, July 3. A surprise Borough Council resignation, lots of questions surround the School District’s fall reopening plan and West Chester playgrounds reopen – at your own risk. Plus, Bar Avalon gets a makeover and the best masks out there. Happy near Fourth everyone! Let’s get this party started.

“The growing numbers, and recent shutdowns of re-openings suggest we are not making the right decision.”

– Borough Councilwoman Denise Polk

The Borough is dealing with a variety of feelings as it prepares for the Fourth of July weekend.

Ward 7 vacancy. This week Ward 7 Councilwoman Denise Polk, surprised everyone and tendered her resignation to Borough Council. In a letter shared with her neighbors and constituents, she cited growing concern over escalating cases of COVID-19.

“The growing numbers, and recent shutdowns of re-openings suggest we are not making the right decision,” she said in her resignation letter. “This is not the time to shut down Gay Street, regardless of ‘getting back to normal’ or economics.” 

After initially voting with the rest of Council to close the street at a special June 9 meeting on the topic, she later reversed her vote when the topic was raised for final approval at the full Council meeting later that month.

Read Denise’s full letter here

Live in Ward 7 and interested in joining Borough Council? Council is accepting applications through July 10. Bonus, if you are a female or a minority. Denise represented Borough Council’s only female voice and there are currently also no members of color.

Also, starting to feel uneasy about reopening? The Governor. Note: the Daily Local is continuing to make coronavirus coverage available to all, no subscription necessary. 

“We know that whatever we do, many of our parents, students and staff will be disappointed, angry and anxious.”

-Superintendent James Scanlon

The rumor that elementary students would go back while, high school students learned from home was just a rumor. Nothing has been decided yet. 

Well, I’m feeling good about this already. The School District’s reopening task force launched this week with a daunting proposition, find a way to reopen schools, safely, without starting a riot among students, staff or parents. Many it seems were up to the task or just hoping to be heard, 800 people signed up to sit on the 30 member committee. (The committee was eventually increased to 50 to accommodate a few more requests.) 

In a letter to parents and students, Superintendent James Scanlon laid the groundwork for the process and outlined some of the challenges the district and the task force will be facing as they begin to detail out these plans. One is a lack of specifics from the PA Department of Health; two is a very tight deadline, the team will be presenting their recommendations to the public on July 21 and the School Board on July 27 and three is  – how far is far enough to mitigate the spread of the virus? While the standard is to maintain 6 feet of separation between individuals, there are some guidelines that suggest 3 feet is sufficient. Those 3 feet could mean the difference between all students returning full time (3 feet) or the implementation of A/B scheduling where half the students return in person, half the time (6 feet).     

While nothing about this plan is final, or even discussed yet, here are some realities to start getting used to:

If the whole idea of in-person instruction makes you uneasy, the School District recently launched its WC Cyber Program which the letter states, “will provide a smooth transition back to traditional school,” should you be looking for a short term schooling solution. 

Also keeping the School District busy and causing parents across the area to twitch, redistricting. Last week the School Board approved the redistricting plan as presented by the redistricting task force and shared it’s transition plan which aims to help smooth the journey for affected kids. 

In many cases older students will get to finish out at their schools. This includes letting high school students in 9th grade or higher in the fall of 2021 to finish at their current school, 8th graders to finish at Pierce, and 5th graders to finish at their current elementary schools.  

While some new students can skip the transition all together. Some new students may enroll this year at the school they will transition to rather than having to wait until fall 2021. 5th grade students at Fern Hill Elementary changing from Peirce Middle School to Fugett may start their middle school career this year at Fugett; and elementary students set to attend East Bradford Elementary School, East Goshen Elementary School, or Fugett Middle School may go ahead and start their this year.  

Unfortunately this can’t be allowed for schools facing the greatest strains on their resources. Students set to move to Greystone Elementary, Fern Hill Elementary, or Exton Elementary will need to wait until next year to make the switch. Students attending schools outside the outlined plan will also be responsible for their own transportation.  

Come next summer, there will also be special orientations and buddy programs to help kids transition. 

“By adding affordable homes to areas like West Chester… we are promoting diverse, well-rounded communities and strengthening our urban center offerings.”

-Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioner

Moderately priced property is a fleeting thing in the Borough. A recent sale at 104 N. Wayne Street.

Chester County’s Department of Community Development has approved $850,000 in funding for the Melton Center’s affordable housing project. Construction is set to begin on the development this month and should be completed by September 2021. The development will consist of ten townhouses and a four-story 41-unit apartment building located at their Market Street location. 

The total cost of the project is $15.8 million.

West Chester playgrounds are open but it’s play at your own risk.

The warnings. Keep your fireworks out of our town. The West Chester Police Department issued a little reminder this week, “fireworks are not permitted in West Chester Borough.” They would also like you to know fireworks are not allowed within 150 feet of any structure, on public land or private property without the owner’s permission. Which is a bit sad because I couldn’t find anyone hosting fireworks locally this year. Want to read up on fireworks safety? Here you go

Use the playground at your own risk. West Chester parks seem to be officially, unofficially open. The park reopening plan posted to the West Chester website seems to be stuck in the yellow, but this week hoops went back up, tape, if it remained, came down and signs appeared stating the risks of the activity you were about to engage in. For example: “Playground equipment is not sanitized.” Here’s the latest on reopening the parks.    

Lock your doors. A burglary was reported this week at the 400 block of South Walnut Street. The victim told police a backpack containing $100 in cash and a laptop was stolen while he slept. Contact the West Chester Police Department if you have any information. 

Just a pretty view. West Chester University.

Accolades. Congrats to West Chester University which was named a top university and best value by a consortium of ranking agencies: including #82 best public college or university in the country, #59 best online graduate schools and #14 best online MBA program for Veterans.

Also, cheers to the West Chester Cooperative on reaching 300 members. Just 100 to go and they can begin planning for that grocery store. Interested in joining, you can find more information here

Hello. To a new acting principal at Stetson Middle School. Ms. Mary Kay Puchalla is officially, if temporarily, in charge. She is filling the position vacated by Dr. Charles Cognato, who died suddenly last month. 

To a newly remodeled Bar Avalon. Stop by and take a look. Inside is open for dining. Seating on a first come, first serve basis. 

To RBG on a mask. Thank you, 5 Senses.  

Goodbye. To several long-serving teachers and administrators including, Dr. Gacomis principal at Penn Wood who has served a jaw-dropping 44 years with the District, Patricia Iaboni, reading specialist at Starkweather and Ms. Thomas, Business teacher at East. Thank you for all you do, if we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s teaching is not easy (neither is cutting hair.)

Also, goodbye to Jenni Southmayd, the School District’s Instructional Technology Coordinator, who left to take a position in another district. 

Friends of Everhart Park made the most of a fallen tree, turning it into a natural playground for the kids.

Give back. Like being outdoors? Good with the grant writing? The Borough of West Chester could use your help. West Chester needs volunteers for its Friends of West Chester Parks program. If you’re interested in being a friend, reach out to Parks Director Keith Kurowski for more details. Applications accepted through July 10.

Like doing Barre classes? Have a large backyard and lots of friends? Barre3 of West Chester is looking for places to hold outdoor classes over the course of the summer. Have suggestions? Let them know

Happy 4th everyone!

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We have spent too much on fireworks and agreed to let the kids stay up past their bedtimes, so we’ll be celebrating a low-key albeit slightly screechy fourth at home. Apologies in advance to our neighbors. 

Also, this weekend the Artisan Exchange is hosting a customer appreciation event and handing out free hot dogs. Join them Saturday 10-2 at 208 Carter Dr.

And for you with musically inclined kiddos, West Chester University is offering free virtual music camps for 3rd graders through Seniors.

Plus, a list of places serving take-out alcohol

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.  

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