West Chester Weekly News Roundup

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

Fall is in full bloom in the borough.

It’s Friday, September 25.  West Chester restaurants prepare for 50 percent occupancy. I have your list of who’s ready for you. Plus, bracing for a return to the classroom, the Henderson Warriors say goodbye to their Native American associations, and West Chester (sort of) weighs in on trick or treating. Grab your favorite Oktoberfest and let’s get started.

“If the virus remains stable, we are expecting to return to in-person instruction next month.”

James Scanlon, Superintendent West Chester Area School District
Busing will be one of the big issues to be addressed before students can return, even partially, to school.

Hybrid modeling. On Saturday West Chester parents got what they had long been waiting for, an update on the West Chester Area School District’s plan for returning to the classroom. In an email sent to parents, students and staff, Superintendent James Scanlon put laid out the next phase of educating in a pandemic. With school board permission and assuming virus levels remain stable, some students will be returning to the classrooms in a limited fashion beginning on Monday, October 19.

Under the tentative plan, elementary students will return first on October 19. Secondary students (grades 6-12) will return 18 days later on November 5. However, in order to return at all the school district must be able to ensure six feet of social distancing between students. As was established over the summer, this can only be done with all kids in school, thus, the hybrid model. 

So now for the $25,000 question – what is the hybrid model? 

That is still TBD. So far here’s what we know.  

  • Students will be in person two to three days a week and learning virtually at home the remaining days. 
  • Students will be six feet a part and required to wear masks.
  • School days will be 30 minutes shorter to allow additional time for teachers to plan.
  • Cyber students are not affected by these changes. As was explained when the differences between the very similar all virtual programs were outlined, cyber students will keep on keeping on with their virtual selves no matter how COVID-19 circumstances change.  
  • We also know the district has been reviewing other hybrid models. So while we’d all love to see them back in class (you can’t see me but I’m holding up two hands), this may be one of those situations where it’s best not to be an earlier adopter. 

Anything else, I should know? Yes. Start locking down those babysitters now. Here’s a little return to the classroom word problem for you. If the first four days of hybrid will be for those in class only and the district is designating an additional two full days and two half days of professional development for staff, how many days of backup childcare will you need to plan for?

“My message today is that hybrid is not good enough!”  

Chrissy McFadden, WCASD parent

Why are you not jumping for joy? Of course, not everyone is thrilled by the announcement of a hybrid approach. Those advocating for the return to brick and mortar scheduled a protest for Monday night and set out once again to explain why parttime is just not good enough. While the turn out might have been a bit disappointing, roughly seventy families gathered from a group that boasts over 800 members the media attention was a nice boost to the message. 

The rallies were covered by the Daily Local, CBS Philly and Whyy

At the same time, parents who have found a groove with virtual learning are hesitant to disrupt a good thing. “Now I worry that up rooting [my student] to a back and forth hybrid will do more harm than good!” one parent shared in the WCASD parent chat on Facebook. 

Like much else for the school district this year, it will not be an easy decision but one way or another the next phase will be settled at next week’s School Board meeting. Unless of course, those COVID numbers spike again. The school board meeting is scheduled for September 29 at 7 p.m.  

“We are cautiously optimistic that we’re going to be able to get a regular season, shortened district playoff and state playoff in.”

Bob Lombardi, PIAA executive director
Throwback to last year’s Henderson football squad before a playoff game against Rustin.

Let them play ball. After weeks of will they – won’t they speculation, West Chester High School fall sports teams are hitting the courses, courts, and of course, the fields. Mandatory practices for all fall sports resumed this week with competitions soon to follow. Up first is golf with games starting this week, followed by tennis next week and everything else the week after. Championships will likely continue as well, although in a slimmed down fashion. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) board approved brackets that include only the champion from each district. Under the new schedule all championship play will be completed by Thanksgiving weekend. 

Attention Borough renters: help is on the way!

Hold on. Help is on the way. West Chester has a lot of renters. According to the latest census data only 38 percent of the Borough’s population lives in owner-occupied housing. And rent, like most housing in the Borough, is not cheap. Renters here pay a median gross rent of $1218. This is about 25 percent more than the state median average rent for a similar period. 

Well, renters if you’re facing hardships due to COVID-19, there could finally be some more relief on its way. The Daily Local is reporting this week that the Chester County Commissioners have approved 1.8 million in rental assistance funds. The funds are available now and can be dispersed in as little as 48 hours, once all necessary documentation is submitted. To be eligible for aid you must demonstrate a 30 percent (or more) reduction in family income compared to March 1 and your household income must be below median income limits. 

You can find out more about the program including how to register here.

Break out the heaters. Outdoor dining continues despite increased indoor occupancy.

Can we move this inside? Earlier this week the state moved to allow 50 percent indoor occupancy levels at restaurants. However, before restaurants can seat more people inside they must first register with the state’s Open & Certified program self-certifying they are complying by state guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. To date 21 West Chester restaurants are listed in the directory, but I expect this to increase as the weather gets cooler.

You can find a link to the directory here.  

Also, note that last call for indoor diners will be happening much earlier than in the past. For now, all alcohol sales must end by 11 p.m.

Speaking of Gay Street updates, the Borough has petitioned PennDot to reclassify the Borough thruway from a state road to a local road. This would give the Borough greater discretion over how the street is used. Currently any changes to operations, say shutting down for three months, have to go through and be approved by PennDot. 

Mask up, Batman. This is not 2019.

Trick or treat at your own risk. Bawahaha. This week West Chester Park and Rec released their guidelines for trick or treating, which is to say, you are on your own. A message posted to the Borough website states, “The Borough of West Chester does not establish dates or times for Trick-or-Treating.” (Although, I feel like they did last year.)

According to recently released CDC guidelines, traditional trick-or-treating is a high risk activity for spreading the virus and should be considered with caution. Instead, they suggest carving pumpkins, an outdoor scavenger hunt or a virtual costume contest (I’m sorry but that just sounds sad to me).  

If you are planning to trick or treat, they suggest leaving individual wrapped goodie bags at the end of your property instead of inviting kids to come to the door. Also, note traditional halloween masks do not protect against the spread of the virus. Masks should be made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose. Also don’t pair a halloween mask with a cloth mask, this could impair breathing.  

Whether we like it or not, this year halloween is going to be scarier than usual and not for any fun reasons. Be smart. Having kids return to the classroom is contingent upon virus levels remaining stable. And let’s face it, that’s the real nightmare. 

The warnings. Should have been wearing that mask. West Chester Police Department is looking for help identifying a person in relation to a theft from Ace Hardware on September 15. If you have any information, the police would like to hear from you. Chat them up at 610-696-2700. 

Don’t be afraid to be counted. Census workers were spotted outside Saint Agnes this week working to count the Borough’s vulnerable populations. If you or your neighbor have not yet completed the forms, you can do so here. Having an accurate count is important, it directly affects how much funding we get as a community and should the government ever decide to help local municipalities with aid, we’ll want all we can get. 

Note in previous census years counting has continued through October, but earlier this year the Trump administration asked that all offices complete their work by September 30, 2020. Update: a court recently reversed this decision sending the deadline back to October 31, but just to be on the say side, why not stop and do it now?

No excuses. Looking for option C on your voting plan? If in person voting makes you nervous (COVID) and mail in voting makes you nervous (USPS), now you have another option. Chester County announced this week it is adding 11 additional mail in/absentee ballot drop off sites including one at the Government Services Center at 601 Westtown Road. All boxes will be continually monitored by an election employee. 

Accolades. High fives to the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center which has received $25,000 from the COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program. The money is to help offset revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, happy birthday to Police Chief James Moreland who celebrated this week with one hell of a cake

Hello. To a low-risk, no cost way to instill an early love of learning. The West Chester public library is launching a storybook walk through town. Grab a map at the library (or download it here) then follow along the path to 14 locations each featuring a page from the book. The event is free but you’ll want to make sure to bring your wallet and your mask. The story walk ends at Gemelli and you know you’re going to want to celebrate your success. Join Sunday at noon for a special reading with the Mayor. Meet at the Library if you’d like to participate or take the fam on a self-guided tour anytime from now until 10/31.  

“Using iconography that marginalizes a race of people is not a practice that we should continue.”

Jason Sherlock, Principal Henderson High School  
Two familiar images we will say goodbye to in 2020.

Goodbye. To the Henderson Warriors logo. Earlier this month, Henderson High School decided to part with any Native American associations with its Warrior nickname. The school will keep the name but lose the feathers and image of a Native American warrior long associated with the team logo.    

Pay it forward.  West Chester Public Arts is collecting photos, art, memes and other images that sum up this year for a 2020 collective reflective (this should be good.) The selected images will be collected into a slideshow presentation to be shown in the open air marketplace. Want to be considered? Send your images to gradf7@gmail.com by October 15.

Also, don’t forget September is Suicide Prevention month. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people. Check on your neighbors and don’t forget to be kind to people (even when they say or do something stupid).  

Fall days. Every. time.

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? My parents are in town so, I think we’ll sneak down to the open air market and grab some chocolate croissants, a cappuccino and maybe some of these to remember us by

Also this weekend, West Chester Parks and Recreation is showing the classic “The Princess Bride” in Everhart Park. Movie starts at 8:00 p.m. tonight. Admission is free with a donation to a local charity. BYO – mask, lawn chair and favorite quote to embarrass your kid with. Mine: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Bad Spanish accent optional.

Finally, looking for a little more swing, a little less kid? The WCU Criterions Jazz Ensemble is holding a virtual concert tonight from 7:30 – 9 p.m. Grab some take out and a bottle of wine and make a night of it.

And don’t forget, if you registered, West Chester University’s community discussion on race in being held tomorrow. 

Finally mark your calendars. A special meeting of the Financial Advisory Committee is scheduled for this Tuesday (9/29) at 6:00 p.m. Bring your questions, even the tough ones. Borough Council has promised to work to make this process as transparent as possible. 

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

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