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

It looks pretty but it was wilting. Hot, hot heat continued this week.

It’s Friday, July 31. West Chester parents scramble for childcare solutions while the Borough prepares to close Gay Street and is Borough Council hiding something? A West Chester lawyer points to a cover up. Plus, Taco Mar gets a new location and this site shares a name with a medical marijuana dispensary. Is it five o’clock, yet? I need a drink.

“What is medically the safest thing to do? That’s what I want to know. What is the safest distance to put these desks apart?”

-James Scanlon, Superintendent West Chester Area School District
Last day of school 2020. How it ended is how it will begin.

Ready or not, they are yours until at least November. On Tuesday, just one day before he was to present his team’s plan for the fall term to parents, students and the public, Dr. James Scanlon, Superintendent of West Chester Area School District participated in a PA Senate panel discussion with education professionals on the safe re-opening of PA schools. 

With the clock ticking, he continued to push for a definitive answer to one very basic question, “What is the safest way to bring the kids back this fall?” He would not get an answer. 

So on Wednesday, without answers, he went with safety. After weeks of preparing for a hybrid solution, tides began turning this week as rumors swirled that Governor Wolf would demand virtual instruction in the face of worsening COVID-19 numbers across the state. As if to preempt the inevitable, Scanlon told school district families piled on a Zoom call or watching the proceedings via Facebook, schools would be virtual until at least the first marking period (Thanksgiving break). Thus leaving parents with two options: Remote Learning 2.0 and WC Cyber school – which despite their careful presentations are, let’s face it, like choosing between a gala and an empire – two versions of pretty much the exact same thing.  

In his plea to the politicians, and again to parents, students and staff on Wednesday night Scanlon reiterated none of this is good. All the careful preparations and investments they had been making for years in movable seating and makerspaces would go unused. What they know about the best practices in education, will have to be put aside, at least for now, in the name of safety.

Next steps: The proposal will be presented to the School Board on August 3. Then assuming the recommendation is accepted, parents and students have until August 7 to select their virtual poison of choice.  

St. Agnes school is preparing to open with in-person classes.

Plan B. While West Chester Area School District is home schooled, other area institutions are moving forwarded with their own plans. Saint Agnes School is, at this time, planning to return for full time in-person instruction for the fall. The Oscar Lasko YMCA’s full-day kindergarten program is another in-person option for parents of incoming kindergarteners. The YMCA, Chester County’s largest childcare provider, is also working to develop childcare options for those students that have opted for virtual learning. Their plan would provide full-day care for students, kindergarten through sixth grade, and include academic support, social enrichment and physical fitness. Students would be placed in groups of 12 and supervised by Y staff. Educational specialists would be available to provide additional educational help.

Let them play ball. Also this week, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) ruled high school fall sports could go on as planned. Football will be the first to test the new rules which will include no spectators at games and may also include mandatory masks on the sidelines, face shields on the playing field and the disinfecting balls after every series.

One last thing to stress about. Keystone testing is returning for the fall, although this time the test will be taken completely online. Yipee.

Take this view to the street. Gay Street will be closed starting Monday.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… On Monday, the official West Chester Open Air Marketplace will open. That morning the Main Street Strong task force team will begin placing barriers and setting up dining tables starting at Matlack and working their way down to Darlington Street.

Signage outlining the new traffic patterns is being developed by the Business Improvement District (BID). Masks will be required when at the market, as will social-distancing. Tables must be set up six feet apart and hand sanitizing stations will be available.

Despite the precautions concerns continue around COVID-10, after peaking (most recently) on July 18 at 590 confirmed COVID-19 cases (112 positives/100,000 people) in the county, the numbers are once again on the decline, down to 321 positives, or 61 per 100,000, on July 29. This is still above the state benchmark of 50 positives/100,000 and we’ve yet to see if it can be maintained. Only time will tell whether the outdoor market will help bring that number down further or drive it back up.  

“When I wrote every council person (in) the borough two months ago and asked them to deal with these issues and make it public, so far they have not done so.”

West Chester attorney Samuel C. Stretton
A public works employee is accused of overpaying a paving vendor $1,000,000 for the repaving work done on Gay Street last year.

Them are fightin’ words. This week West Chester Borough Council was accused of covering up the misappropriation of funds in an open letter to the Daily Local. The letter, written by West Chester attorney Samuel C. Stretton, claims the Borough overpaid a paving contract to the tune of $1,000,000 then hid the details of the transaction from the public. The letter goes on to accuse the Borough of quietly moving to a “policy of privatization.” 

There’s a bit here so let’s take this one major accusation at a time. Let’s start with that million dollar over payment, shall we? 

Major accusation #1: Borough Council covered up the $1,000,000 overpayment of a paving vendor.

In his own letter to the paper, Borough Council President Michael Galey admits there was an overpayment made which led to a 2019 budget shortfall, although, he disputes the amount. He says there was a $600,000 shortfall that had to be carried over to the 2020 budget cycle ill timed with to the current fiscal woes. He, however, denies there was any cover up and states the incident was discussed many times and at length at Borough Council meetings. Which could be true, because prior to streaming who was even attending the Borough Council meetings? 

In explaining what happened Galey says, a Public Works employee “approved $1.32 million in payments” and did so “without informing supervisors in the borough, and sometimes keeping the invoices that were paid in a desk at the Public Works building instead of forwarding them to the borough Finance Department.”

The employee has since been let go. I’m curious how that happens. I need manager sign off on expenses over $100 and this Public Works employee – who I am guessing is not Director O’B Laing, because he is still employed – somehow managed to approve $1.32 million in payments without any executive oversight or sign off from the finance department? Anyway,

Major accusation #2: The Borough is looking to privatize operations without public input.  

The other part of this has to do with the contract itself which Mr. Stretton says was never bid out or voted on by Borough Council and well exceeded the $60,000 the Borough had budgeted for street paving. Mr. Galey countered these allegations stating the pavement was covered under a previous contract signed with the company.

I don’t who to believe in this, but I am glad someone is watching and raising the questions, it feels Borough Council runs along a little too unchecked at times. If you’d like to see all the drama – here’s a link to the full story.

“I’m a little surprised it took this long with all the contact the police have with the public.” 

-Jim Morehead, West Chester Chief of Police
West Chester PD on patrol Thursday morning.

The warnings. Keep your distance. Last week we learned a member of the West Chester Police Department tested positive for COVID-19. West Chester police officers are required to wear face masks when social distancing is not possible. The officer has been off duty but was expected back this week.

Don’t plant those seeds. The PA Department of Agriculture would like to ask that you do not plant random, unrequested seeds you receive in the mail. Yes, really. 

Accolades. Congratulations to Chester County Hospital which tied with Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood as the tenth best hospital in the state. Chester County Hospital, was nationally ranked in Diabetes and Endocrinology and rated high performing in heart failure, hip replacement  and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) procedures.

Also congratulations to West Chester-based artist David Katz who is featured in the new short film “Artists in the Time of the Pandemic.” See above.

Hello.  To a new Resolution Regarding Racial Equity from the West Chester Area School Board. In the prepared statement the Board pledges to “work with the administrators, teachers, staff, students, and parents of the WCASD community to engage in a sustained effort to systematically uncover areas of inequity, prejudice and discrimination at the district, school and classroom levels; and to identify and implement solutions to overcome these challenges.”

While this may sound like just another statement of goodwill, the Board does have the results of a racial equity audit conducted by The Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence & Equity at the University of Pennsylvania that they will be using to guide their initiatives. Here’s hoping for real change.

Also, say hello, to Flourish, the co-working space reopened this week. They are offering a free week to “new faces.” So, if you’re still working from homing and getting a little sick of the old faces, here’s your chance to try something new. 

Finally, hola to La Cabaña by TacoMar. Same food, same service, just about block down on the right – across from the Post Office.

Goodbye. To the West Chester Police Department National Night Out Against Crime. The popular event would have taken place this Wednesday (August 4) but has been rescheduled for October 6.

Also, goodbye to Marta Paxson, first grade teacher at East Bradford elementary school. Mr. Paxson will retire this September after 27 years of service; and Nora Wheeler, principal of Westtown Thornbury elementary school will be moving on to new challenges.

Finally, goodbye to my Google ranking. It used to be when you searched Hello, West Chester in Google, this site was the first to come up. Now when you search, I’ve been replaced by Beyond/Hello West Chester, the West Chester location of a chain of medical marijuana stores. Also, explains all the odd endorsements I kept getting on Facebook.

A lovely container garden.

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We are heading to the lake next weekend so I am planning to bake some banana bread to take with us. It will the first time we’ve done a lake vacation and I’m getting excited.

Also, I saw the Advent Preschool on Green Lane is hosting an outdoor family movie night tomorrow which I thought sounded like fun. They will be showing Toy Story 4. Movie starts at 7:30. Admission? A donation to the SPCA (recommended).

Finally, the 3rd Annual “Walk for Me” Bianca Nikol Roberson charity walk is coming up. The virtual event is not scheduled until August 22, but tomorrow is the last day to register to get the t-shirt and wrist band.

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

Plus, want to help save West Chester’s trees? I have just the team for you.

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. 

4 thoughts on “West Chester Weekly News Roundup

  1. That medical cannabis company is about to become the biggest in the state as parent Jushi Holdings recently bought Beyond/Hello to get access to the attractive Pennsylvania market now closed to new entrants and growing. Hopefully, the dispensary name will change and you’ll get that Google rank back.

  2. Please update to reflect that Gov Wolf had never formally announced an intent to require remote learning. This was complete conjecture and hearsay. For Scanlon to have used this as a basis of the decision was ridiculous. That being said, I do believe it was the right call. He just needs to own it and not pass the blame.

    1. True, but at the time of the superintendent’s recommendation rumors were Gov. Wolf would close schools. It wasn’t until after the recommendation was made that Wolf confirmed no such plan was in the works. Not saying speculation about Wolf’s plans should or should not have been part of the decision process. Just confirming timing.

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