West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Pink trees and daffodils, it’s official. Spring is here.

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

It’s Friday, April 9.  Students are back in school, but for how long if COVID cases continue to rise? The stress is real – just ask WCASD Superintendent James Scanlon. Plus, West Chester opens two new watering holes – one with fresh seafood, a couple of great ways to spend the weekend, and local taxes are due next week. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s been a few weeks now – we have lots to discuss.

Spring Breakdown

Back at it. Elementary students heading home after their first week of in-person instruction.

While vaccination rates in the county are going up, so too are COVID-19 infection rates. After hitting a low of 73.91 cases per 100,000 four weeks ago the numbers have continued to climb. Hitting 181.15 per 100,000 just before the Easter holiday – well above the less than a 100 per 100k, set by the Chester County Health Department to allow students to return to school. 

That is where things stand today from a purely numerical standpoint. Here is what else has happened on the COVID-19 front over the last couple weeks.

Superintendent James Scanlon resigned. In a piece of jaw-dropping news released this week, West Chester Area School District Superintendent James Scanlon announced that after 12-years he would be retiring from his role as leader of the school district effective this August. While no specific reason was given for the resignation, the trials of the past year almost certainly played a part. “My time here as superintendent has been both the best of times and the worst of times,” Dr. Scanlon wrote in a letter to sent to parents, students, and staff. “I know that it is time for another chapter in my own career and family life,”   

It is widely expected Assistant Superintendent Bob Sokolowski will be confirmed as Dr. Scanlon’s replacement at the April 26 School Board meeting. 

Students return. After months of will they, won’t they suspense West Chester Area School District students are (mostly) back in the classroom. All elementary and secondary students now have the option of five-day in-person instruction but whether or not they take it seems to depend a lot on where they fall in their educational careers. 

Perhaps not surprising, elementary students are returning to the classroom at a much greater rate than expected for middle and high school students. 

According to data presented at the last School Board meeting,

  • 81 percent of elementary students have or plan to return compared to
  • 77 percent of middle school students and 
  • 66 percent of high school students

However, numbers for secondary students could go up. “Principals are hearing from more kids that want to come back,” Dr. Scanlon shared. 

Shots up. In more positive pandemic news, as of March 21 all WCASD teachers have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The District is now reporting that it is working to get all remaining staff, non-district employees, coaches, subs and bus drivers vaccinated as well. 

Indoor dining capacity increased to 75 percent this week, despite county COVID-19 numbers that appear to be heading in the wrong direction.

Can I get a table please? Starting on Easter Sunday, Pennsylvania once again lessened dining restrictions. Now restaurants that self-certify with the PA.gov Open and Certified website indicating they are abiding by COVID-19 prevention guidelines may open to 75% occupancy levels. They will also be able to resume bar service. That means serving alcohol without the purchase of food. Cheers.

Currently there are 66 West Chester restaurants certified and ready to serve. 

“Everyone who has experienced COVID-19 on any level — from having to stay home from work or school, not being able to see friends and family members, losing a friend or relative to the virus — has experienced chronic stress and/or trauma.”

Dan Jurman, Executive Director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Advocacy and Reform

Mind your mental health. First seen as frontline fatigue among healthcare workers, a lot of information has been coming out lately concerning the long-term emotional effects of living in a pandemic . Many, including the state of Pennsylvania, believe it will be the next big health crisis we face. To help employers prepare for these challenges, Chester County Economic Development Council is hosting a virtual conference addressing the Impacts of Living in a Trauma-Informed State, like one caused from living under constant stress for a year.

Among the wide range of issues addressed will include:

  • What can employers do to support health care and non-health care employees now and in the wake of COVID-19?
  • Why is Pennsylvania becoming a ‘trauma-informed state’ and what does that mean for employers, workers and other residents?
  • Updates on vaccine distribution and its impacts

If you are an employer and interested in learning more about COVID-19 Impacts on Health Care Workers and PA as a Trauma-Informed State, register here. Event is taking place April 21 from 8-10 a.m.

The warnings. 

Attention you procrastinators: Local taxes are still due April 15. You read that correctly. While 2020 state and federal tax filing deadlines have been extended until May 17, no such change has been made for Local Earned Income Taxes. Which means local taxes are still due next week. More information about local taxes can be found on the Keystone website.

Keep your hands, and feet, where I can see them. Oriental Nail Salon, at 698 E. Market, is reporting theft of services after an unknown female entered the facility recieved a pedicure and left without paying. The suspect is described as a preppy older white woman.

Accolades.

Congratulations to Fugett Middle School Emotional Support Teacher Jessica Keogh on her award-winning lesson plan, titled “Empathy.” The material which strives to “break down stereotypes and barriers for students with disabilities while reinforcing the message ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’” was recently recognized with a win at the Sarepta Therapeutics’ inaugural Rare Lessons Contest. Ms. Keogh, who was born with Muscular Dystrophy, knows first hand what an isolating time middle school can be and she is looking to change that for today’s students. Check out her winning plan at sharemylesson.com.

Also elbow bumps to Chester County Hospital which was once again recognized by Newsweek as one of the best hospitals in the country. This year Chester County landed at 85th in the U.S. and fifth best hospital in Pennsylvania according to the magazine which based its analysis on the opinions of 74,000 healthcare professionals, patient experience and overall medical performance. It’s nice to know quality care is just across town. This is the third year Newsweek has attempted to rank the nation’s hospitals and the second time Chester County made the grade.  

Finally, a belated cheers to Jake’s Bar on making it to the Final Four of the Barstool Best Bar 2021, an NCAA college basketball-style tournament with 128 of the biggest and best college bars in the country. In true March Madness fashion they upset Syracuse, Bloomsburg, and Maine to make it to the Final Four before losing to East Carolina University. “Well, the Cinderella run has come to an end.” Barstool West Chester stated on their Instagram account. “We gave it a great run and we actually came pretty close in the end… It speaks a lot to the special culture that Jakes’ has created through the years and the spirit of the West Chester community that we are all a part of, whether you live here or not.”

Goodbye.

Last month the West Chester Area School District announced the following educators will be retiring at the end of the year. Together these eight represent an impressive 172 years of service. A big community thanks you for all you do (especially over this last year.) 

  • Ms. Allaire, Math teacher, Stetson, 13 years of service
  • Sr. Berardi, Spanish teacher, East, 15 years of service
  • Ms. Jones, Science teacher, Rustin, 16 years of service
  • Ms. Close, Family and Consumer Science teacher, Peirce, 17 years of service
  • Mr. Kozak, Social Studies teacher, Henderson, 21 years of service
  • Mr. Lorback,  Social Studies teacher, East, 24 years of service
  • Ms. Thompson, P.E. teacher, East, 31 years of service
  • Mr. Kelley, Music teacher, Stetson, 35 years of service

Also, West Chester University and the West Chester community say goodbye to a prominent local sports figure. West Chester resident and former West Chester University assistant basketball coach Charlie DiMarco passed away at Chester County Hospital late last month. Mr. DiMarco’s roots go deep in the community. He also served as a founding member and inductee of the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame and athletic director for St. Agnes. 

If you wish to share your condolences, the family is asking that you make a donation to the SPCA or the WCU Men’s Basketball scholarship fund in Coach DiMarco’s memory. 

Hello. 

To Greystone Oyster House. After much anticipation (the sign in the window still indicates incorporated 2020) and a gorgeous reno, Greystone Oyster House located at 7 N. Church Street is now open for business. Stop in to sip on signature crafted cocktails while slamming back fresh oysters or take a crack at a whole chilled lobster. 

To Artillery Brewing. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the pandemic is devastating America’s restaurant industry, as we welcome yet another addition to the dining scene. Ok, so this one’s more drinking than eating but still my point stands. Swing by 333 Granite Alley (other side of Hannum Ave) on your way into (or out of) town, grab a “Musket” or a “Patriot” and say hello to the guys behind this Revolutionary War-loving nano-brewery. Artillery Brewing opens tonight. 

To a new footpath in Hoopes Park. The path runs from the east side of the park to the west – W. Ashbridge Street to N. Locust Lane. Bonus: it was “paved” with PerkEpave, or a recycled tire product.  

Pay it forward. 

The Melton Center.

It’s been a tough year for the Melton Center. With the building closed due to COVID-19, the community center was forced to pivot the base of its activities from welcoming in, to taking out. Since last March, community volunteers have delivered hundreds of meals weekly. They have built an outdoor dining area and distributed bikes to neighborhood kids. All without the traditional fundraising events that sustain their activities.

So on April 10, (yes, tomorrow), they are hosting a one of their famous community get-togethers – only they are doing it virtually. Meet members of West Chester’s vibrant East end community and program participants, talk with community leaders (and I’m going to guess at least one mayoral candidate) and celebrate the past, present, and future of the Center. Time is running out so register now to attend what I am sure will be an inspiring and uplifting (virtual) evening

Maybe you’re not the fundraiser type? Maybe your preferred way to give back is boots on the ground, hands in the dirt? Well, in that case I have just the event for you. The West Chester Tree Team (Who, you say? I answer that here.) in collaboration with the West Chester Green Team is hosting an April morning cleanup of sorts on the banks of Goose Creek. The groups are combining to remove invasive species along the stream bank. Then in the fall they will reseed with native plants helping to bring back local pollinators to the region. “This work represents the beginning of the many, much-needed improvements to the Goose Creek watershed which we hope can be made in the near future,” says Jeff Beitel, Chair of the West Chester Tree Commission.

To join the fun, email WCTreeTeam@gmail.com. Volunteers will meet at 9 AM on April 17 at Greenfield Park to receive instructions and form small teams. 

Also this weekend East High School is hosting its 11th annual House of Hope benefit concert. This free virtual event is taking place tonight at 7 p.m. and will raise money to support Home of the Sparrow, a West Chester nonprofit helping to prevent homelessness in the area. Register here.

The freakin’ weekend. 

I’m hoping it’s a lay in the grass kind of weekend (which is exactly how we spent our Easter.)

What are you up to this weekend? After a little break, we are back at it. Boys will be participating in their first Pinewood Derby on Saturday and we have a birthday invite. It will be small and outside, but slowly signs of normalcy are beginning to return.

Speaking of return. Split Rail is back with their sidewalk concerts, one of those innovations I hope remains post COVID, and I can definitely get behind a lazy afternoon up here again. Also, races everywhere appear to be picking up. So runners, grab your gear.

Mark your calendars:

  • Goose Creek Invasive Plant Removal, April 17 starting at 9 a.m. Register here.
  • Earth Day Art Stroll and Digital Art Festival, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
  • The Borough wide + All Parks Cleanup is scheduled for April 24 and 25. Sign up here.

That’s all for this week. Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester.

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