West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Preparing for Tropical Storm Fay. Expect heavy rain, wind and severe thunderstorms throughout the day.

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

It’s Friday, July 10. While West Chester Area School District outlines its plan for a fall return, WCU changes its decision to return and announces it will continue with remote through the fall. Plus, West Chester Borough backs away from its plastic ban and a first look at how the 44 West pavilion is shaping up. It’s pretty. Who’s ready to get started?

This is how I imagine schools will look this fall – just with masks.

Planning for the safe return to school. An expanded West Chester Area School District reopening task force (originally scoped to have 30 members, now with 400) met for the first time this week with a daunting task: find a way to reopen schools safely, without starting a riot among students, staff or parents. 

While the plan is not final, here are some broad guidelines as to what student, parents and staff can expect come late August:

  • The district is planning to open with full-time, in-person classes by maintaining three feet of separation between students. Masks and numerous other health and safety guidelines will be in place.  
  • Last week the PA Department of Health issued a universal masking requirement that makes masks mandatory for anyone 2 or older if six feet can’t be maintained between individuals both indoors and outdoors. They later clarified their positions for schools stating, “if universal face coverings are not possible, face covering when in hallways, restrooms and areas where physical distancing is not possible is required.” So basically, everywhere.
  • The district is also working on expanded remote learning options should schools be unable to reopen, need to close, or for students that are required to self-quarantine for multiple weeks. The District is reminding parents there is also a full-time remote option for those who want it. WCASD is holding a virtual open house for its WC Cyber Program next Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Look for limited group activities – the Chester County Health Department is recommending assemblies, plays and extracurricular activities be suspended, if proper distancing can’t be maintained. They are however, not taking a stance on sports choosing instead to punt that one back to the schools. “The decision to resume sports-related activities,” the guidance states, “is at the decision of the school entity’s governing body.”   

The WCASD Return to School task force has now completed two of its three meetings. The final meeting is scheduled for July 15 with, mark your calendars, a public Zoom presentation of the committee’s findings on July 21, at 6 p.m. 

Bus capacity is another big issue the District must address before students return this fall.

Can I bum a ride? So not all the logistical issues the West Chester Area School District is dealing with are inside the schools. A big area of concern is actually on the buses, so much so a communication was sent out this week asking parents who can to opt out of bus service for their students. The Chester County Department of Health recommends no more than two children to a seat. Currently buses seat three and even four to a seat on busy days. The Department of Health is also asking that bus drivers perform health and temperature checks prior to allowing children to board. If you are willing and able to opt out of bus service, there is a form you can fill out. The District transportation department is asked that it’s completed by July 17. If your student plans to continue to use the bus, they should be prepared for early starts and later returns.

West Chester University suspends most in-person classes for the fall.

“We cannot ignore the potential danger of bringing thousands of students back for face-to-face instruction.”

-Dr. christopher fiorentino

Well, I didn’t see that coming. While the West Chester Area School District struggles with how to safely return students in the fall, West Chester University announced it will suspend its plan to return students full time and instead return to remote learning through the fall semester. In a video message to students that was released today, WCU President Christopher Fiorentino said, he could not return students under the “backdrop of the virus’ dramatic resurgence.” While most classes will be remote, some exceptions will be made to accommodate those with clinical placements, student teaching obligations and internships.

The University also announced it implemented a technology lending program for those without access to proper technology and will allow students to “bank” unused credits as long as they register for a minimum of 12 credits this fall. The unused credits (up to six) can be applied to either the Winter or Summer 2021 session – at no additional cost to the student.

If you are a WCU student, stay tuned there will be a virtual town hall session on the changes.

So, I see you’ve changed your name. The Borough’s single-use plastic ban may soon become the Borough’s Single-Use Waste Opt-in program (They may want to work on the name. It sounds like a plan to let businesses opt-in to single-use waste). Anyway, last summer after a moving presentation on the ills of plastic waste from the students of the Friends School, Borough Council voted and, by a count of four to three, banned the use of single use plastic straws and bags in the borough. That ban was set to take effect this month but implementation of such bans has been delayed by the state until July 2021 or the end of COVID-19, whichever comes later. To thwart the state, the Borough now has a new approach: the opt-in plan

Instead of a mandate, businesses will now be asked to sign up individually to participate in the program and depending on if they are restaurant or retail, agree to three or four of the below: 

  1. Participate in the Borough’s recycling program*
  2. No plastic bags 
  3. No plastic straws (biodegradable option by request only) 
  4. No Styrofoam 
  5. 100% reusable wares used on-site 
  6. Encourage customers to BYO bags, containers, mugs, etc. (Pursuant to evolving health regulations)

*Required of all participating businesses.

The benefits of this approach as listed in the presentation include no interference from Harrisburg and lower programmatic cost to the Borough. The negatives, not listed, include less overall participation and less plastic reduction. If the plan is passed in July, the Borough hopes to begin outreach to businesses by September.  

The pavilion at 44 West is starting to take shape.

Looking good. After halting construction during the early weeks of COVID-19, work is underway again at 44 West, the multi-use complex being constructed at the corner of Gay and Church Streets. Windows are in and a couple weeks ago crews were seen pouring concrete for the patio area. This week work continued with the planting of trees and landscaping. It should be a great addition to downtown when it’s complete.

Speaking of Gay Street action, Main Street Strong t-shirts, supporting the Gay Street closure, are now available for sale, $20 each. All proceeds go to support the open air marketplace. Get yours here.  

Last call. The call for submissions closes today (July 10) on a couple of pretty important Borough posts.

Denise Polk, Borough Councilwoman representing Ward 7 tendered her resignation last month over the decision to close Gay Street. While there has been much discussion whether or not this was the right decision (cough) no (cough), the fact remains a seat on Council is now open and this is your last chance to apply. You must live in Ward 7 to be eligible and preferably not white and male (FYI those are my preferences not the Borough’s.)

West Chester also 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 today – July 10.

So, if you’ve been toying with the idea of getting involved – get your act together, this is your chance.

The warnings. A face mask not covering your nose isn’t doing anyone any good. Still confused about the face mask and why you need to wear one? As part of their reopening research the School District shared this article from University of California San Francisco on the science behind face masks. Go ahead, geek out. 

Accolades. Congratulations to Micaela E. Zelinsky of East High School, Sarah Saroka of Rustin High School, and Thomas DeAngelis of Henderson High School all of whom recently received the Gawthrop Greenwood’s 2020 Law Prize. The award recognizes academic excellence and is given out each year to one student at each of the three high schools. 

Also a shout out to West Chester University Staff member Amy Maxcy and student Abigail Kennedy who were recognized by the state as Campus Sustainability Champions for 2020. Amy is the brainchild behind the campus’s “Pack it Up, Pass It On” student yard sale that has diverted three dumpsters-worth of used items from landfills. While, Abigail served as chair of WCU’s Students for Sustainable Action and was co-chair of Fair Trade WCU. Thank you both for helping to keep our community clean and green. 

Beautiful fresh flowers now available at Green Eyed Lady on Gay Street.

Hello. To a new labyrinth at Everhart Park. Last week 25 volunteers from the Friends of Everhart Park laid stone blocks in a circle pattern in the park’s southwest corner. The idea is to follow the stones around in their circle, slowing the mind and taking time for reflection. While a labyrinth is an ancient art dating back to Greek mythology. “Kids can play on it. It’s not like it’s sacred,”  FOEP member Susan Frens told the Daily Local. Well, that is good to know.    

To fresh cut flowers now at Green Eye Lady. Groceries through Slow Hand. Annuals sold on a front lawn. One of the better things to come out of COVID-19 in my opinion, are these crazy or not so crazy retail mashups. 

Finally, hello again to free crafts at Monkey Fish Toys. Available Tuesdays 11:30 to 12:30 good for kids three and over and the perfect bribe for behaving during a Giant run.  

“[Dr. C] seemed to have boundless energy and positivity which he poured into our school.”

Peggy Gastner, retired reading specialist, stetson middle school

Goodbye. Earlier this summer, Stetson Middle School unexpectedly lost its principal, Dr. Charles Cognato, “Dr. C” as he was known, who passed away peacefully in his sleep. Now students and faculty share a tribute to his memory.   

Pay it forward. The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce is providing local businesses with Revival Survival Kits complete with face masks, disposable gloves and hand sanitizer. Free to businesses with 100 employees or less. Contact the Chamber if you’re interested in receiving one. 

Last weekend we braved the heat and headed over to Longwood Gardens. Beautiful as ever and much quieter than a usual. A nice little escape if you can get over.

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We have a family birthday, the first since the pandemic began. It supposed to be outside with plenty of room for distancing, but still it’s hard to know if we should proceed with these events. 

This documentary on Civil Right Activist John Lewis playing at Uptown Theater looks really good – and it’s free. This Monday at 7 p.m.. Limited to two tickets per household. Reservations required. 

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

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest updates from West Chester. If I’m missing something, and I probably am, send me an email.

2 thoughts on “West Chester Weekly News Roundup

  1. If you need an insider at West Chester University, Id be happy to help.

    You were surprised?

    I wasn’t. Faculty on the FB online teachers support group have been concerned for weeks. A survey went out on campus as far as teaching preferences as well as we were surveyed by the state system AND the union. Our top three leaders – Chris, Jeff and Lorraine AND our Union made the right move.

    On Fri, Jul 10, 2020 at 11:47 AM Hello, West Chester wrote:

    > hellowestchester posted: ” Preparing for Tropical Storm Fay. Expect heavy > rain, wind and severe thunderstorms throughout the day. With so much going > on around town. Catch up on what you may have missed. It’s Friday, July > 10. While West Chester Area School District outlines i” >

    Like

    1. Hi Tom,

      I guess I was not so surprised by the move, just the timing. Once again WCU was the first to make the call. I do not have a good insider at WCU – just usually peruse the website to find the latest. If you are able to pass along information when you have it, that would be great! Thanks for the offer!

      Cara

      Like

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