West Chester Weekly News Roundup

A little bit of everything on W. Biddle Street.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, August 6. With COVID-19 numbers ticking upward we review when you need to wear a mask and when you don’t. West Chester hired 3 new officers – a look at how they diversify the force. And it’s official, there will be no Christmas Parade this year, but a replacement is in the works. A first look at what that will be. We are in the final month of summer. Grab a quiet spot somewhere and soak it up while you can, but first…

“Masks are required in all indoor classrooms and/or instructional spaces as well as when traveling between classes and within common areas of a University building.”

West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino and the President’s Cabinet

To mask, or not to mask – why is this still the question?

Latest county transmission data from the CDC.

Update: This just in – the Center for Disease Control has updated the level of community transmission of COVID-19 in Chester County from moderate to substantial. This means the CDC recommendation that masks be worn indoors even by vaccinated individuals is now applicable.  While painful to hear this news, it is really not all that surprising. Cases have been slowly rising in Chester County for several weeks now and of the surrounding counties Delaware, Montgomery, Berks, and Lancaster – only Berks maintains Moderate spread. The other counties and Philadelphia were at substantial spread levels earlier this week. As of now the Chester County Health Department has not updated their guidance on masking but that may just be a matter of time. For now, here is where West Chester stands in regards to when to wear a mask. 

Downtown, local businesses: No mask needed. With much of the dining moved outdoors, the Downtown Business District is not requiring masks, capacity levels or other mitigation measures at this time. Of course, masks are always and option for those who choose to wear one.

County businesses and government offices: No mask required indoors, if you are vaccinated. According to the Chester County Health Department, masks are not required to enter County building or facilities (this includes the Justice Center) if you are fully vaccinated; masks, however, are encouraged for those individuals who are not fully vaccinated. 

WCASD, daycares and childcare centers: No mask needed. Current WCASD reopening health and safety plan states that masks are optional for students and staff while indoors or outdoors or on buses. “We are not changing that tonight,” Dr. James Scanlon said last week at the July school board meeting. The District, he said, will continue to monitor case count closely to see if any modifications will be needed to that guidance for the fall.

Chester County Health Department has updated its position to state “layered COVID-19 prevention strategies” are at the decision of the school. As for recommended strategies, both CCHD and Pennsylvania Department of Health point to the CDC for guidance on this topic. To which the CDC says, “masks should be worn indoors by all teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status.” Thank you, Delta.

This recommendation applies to kids ages 2 and up in early education and child care centers as well as K-12. 

On a community level this topic remains divisive. There has been a petition circulating among parents encouraging the district to reinstate the mask mandate while students are indoors. The petition was presented at last month’s school board meeting with over 400 signatures from parents and community members. An opposing petition, asking that masks remain optional currently has 295 signatures.

Some districts in neighboring counties have already taken the measure. While, others maintain it is the decision of the parent as to whether or not masks should be required. “As a parent it is my responsibility to make sure my kid wears a mask regardless of vaccination status,” parent BethAnn Rosica said to applause at last month’s school board meeting.  

WCU: Bring your mask. In updated guidance out this week, West Chester University will be requiring students, faculty and staff to wear masks indoors when three-feet of social distance cannot be maintained. This is regardless of vaccination status. “This means masks are required in all indoor classrooms and/or instructional spaces as well as when traveling between classes and within common areas of a University building,” the policy states.

For those that are fully vaccinated, masks can be removed when in a private office or other spaces where proper distancing can be maintained. 

Three new officers

West Chester Police Department’s Night Out Against Crime was held on Wednesday.

This week the West Chester Police Department swore in three new officers. The new officers two men, one female (two white, one black, respectively) were all exceptional candidates. “We have three highly qualified candidates I am extremely excited about,” said Chief Morehead at last month’s Borough Council Working Session. 

The final candidates came from a pool of six certified candidates – four men, two women. All the male candidates were white, of the female candidates one was white, one black. 

Quick question – Why are you telling me this? Why didn’t we just stop at three highly-qualified candidates? 

For a while now all the talk has been about how to better diversify our police force. Both candidates for mayor include improving diversity among their top priorities if elected to the office. This is in large part because having a police force that is reflective of the community it represents is thought to improve trust especially among minority communities – and up until yesterday West Chester had one black officer. According to one count the WCPD would need to add nine minority officers to reach an adequate facsimile of the West Chester population. 

“We are making progress,” said Mayor Jordan Norley earlier this week. “A black female will be sworn in tonight which is fantastic.” 

But it’s not easy. Recruiting and vetting police candidates relies on numerous factors including a civil service exam and competing state and local priorities. The state, for example, rewards candidates with military experience extra consideration, often moving them to the top of the applicant pool regardless of gender or ethnicity.

And while diversity is important, it is not the only thing the Borough is looking at. That new female officer? She has two master’s degrees – one in applied behavioral analysis and one in criminal justice. Of the two gentleman one is a military veteran and a resident of the Borough (another community characteristic prioritized) and the second is pursuing his master’s while conversant in Spanish (another box checked.) 

Ok, I get it. So how do we get more minority candidates to apply?

That’s the question everyone’s been asking. In March West Chester with the help of Mayor Norley instituted a 8-member Diversity Council to help the Borough along in its efforts to diversify the police force. However, the process to bring forth a selection of candidates takes six months so this round is not reflective of their efforts. We will have to wait for the next recruitment period to see if they are having an impact. 

“I believe we have made progress,” said Mayor Norley. “Next time around hopefully, we will be able to see some results of those efforts.”

***

Speaking of results, I am trying moving up my offer to follow this blog for the latest updates from West Chester. Just in case, you are rudely torn away before you make it to the end. Really is there an easier way to stay informed? Share your email to get these updates delivered right to your inbox.

The warnings

Duck and cover. Rumors of gun shots often materialize on Facebook Community Groups or on Nextdoor however, it isn’t often their existence is corroborated by a police report. Well, not this time. If you thought you heard gunshots in the early morning of July 29, you did. West Chester Police are investigating a gun battle that took place in the vicinity of East Market and South Walnut Streets. After investigating the incident it was determined gunshots were exchanged in the street around 5 a.m. that Thursday morning. If you know anything about this exchange, please contact Detective Corporal Harry O’Neill directly at honeill@west-chester.com or 610-436-1335.

Check yourself, before you wreck yourself. We all want what’s best for our kids, so it’s not surprising we sometimes get a little passionate when we feel our concerns are not being heard. It is somewhat surprising when those outbursts end up on Fox & Friends… And not to say that Fox & Friends soundless video footage is not showing an accurate portrayal of the events, but audio helps add to the context. The entire exchange and the rest of the July school board meeting is available on the WCASD YouTube channel. In a hurry? Forward the tape to 1:52 to get up to speed on the controversy.  

Raw eggs are a b*#^$ to get out. This week residents in the area of the 400 block of W. Nields Street were reporting several cars were egged while parked on the street. One neighbor reported $1500 in damages to their car. The damage is thought to have occurred between Tuesday and Thursday of this week. If you have any information about this incident, contact West Chester Police Department at 610-696-2700.

Accolades.

Team PCAS. Photo credit: Darla Clarke-Clayton.

Major round of applause to “Team PCAS.” This summer seven athletes from PA Center of Adaptive Sports went to the Move United  Junior Nationals meet and came back home decorated with medals. These dedicated young athletes train from March to July at Henderson High School to compete in events such as swimming, track and field, hand cycling and air rifle.  

“I just want to share with you all about this badass group of athletes who also happen to have disabilities,” Darla Clarke-Clayton shared on Facebook. “We just got home from Junior Nationals in Colorado where they swam, ran, jumped, and threw, and a few even did triathlons, and air gun competitions. They brought home the 2nd place team in the ENTIRE COUNTRY to PA along with a bunch of medals, a lot of personal best performances, and a few national records.”

Wow, pretty impressive to have these athletes training in our backyard. Way to go Team PCAS!

Also, impressive? West Chester University had a school record 184 student athletes recognized among this year’s Division 2 Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award winners – brains and brawn. How you like them apples?  

Hello. 

Beginning Friday, November 26, thousands of lights will illuminate block after block, including here on Gay Street, plus weekends of fun throughout the holiday season to attract visitors to local businesses.

Say hello, to a fun new holiday tradition (yes, that is code for the Christmas Parade is still not happening. See Goodbyes.) This year get ready to see West Chester in a new light when thousands of twinkle lights are strung all over downtown. Lights will be flicked on each weekend from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. 

In addition to lights there are also a variety of events planned from the traditional tree lighting at the courthouse on December 3 to a free outdoor music series, carolers, festive décor and of course, Santa. Santa will be in town each weekend hitching a ride from West Chester’s fabulous firefighters. Additional plans are in the works and more details will be released as we get closer to the holiday season. Almost makes me look forward to the changing seasons, almost.

Also say hi, to West Chester Area School District’s new Assistant Superintendent  – Dr. Kalia Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds comes to the district from the Appoquinimink School District in Middletown, DE where she last served as the Director of K-12 Teaching and Learning. Prior to that she served as the Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning for four years in the Avon Grove School District. She was selected from a nationwide search that yielded 41 candidates. “Dr. Reynolds has a reputation of being a collaborative, dynamic educator with an outstanding work ethic,” Dr. James Scanlon, WCASD Superintendent, said in a release from the district. 

Welcome to West Chester, Dr. Reynolds! 

Also, say hello to a new Tesla dealership. It was announced this week Telsa will be taking over the Jaguar-Land Rover dealership on West Chester Pike. This is good news for all you fans of the EV manufacturer, and there appear to be a few in the borough. Currently the closest dealership is 30-minutes away in Devon.

Finally say hello, to free movies, TV series and video games from the West Chester Public Library. Starting this week the West Chester Public Library has announced it will no longer be charging for its video content. 

Goodbye.

Say goodbye to the West Chester Christmas Parade 2021. Yes, it’s official and no amount of calls, letters or pouting will bring it back – at least not this year. In a statement released last week by the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, “Production of this year’s [Christmas] parade, which requires a year of planning, was dependent upon vaccine distribution and the return to in-person events.” And that unfortunately did not happen in time. 

Also, this week I plan to say goodbye to my boys – once they learn Everhart Park has its very own Gaga Pit. This week Boy Scout Ryan Patercity and a crew of volunteers completed construction on a new Gaga Pit located on the southwest side of the park just past the basketball court. Ryan conceived, planned and led the execution of the pit as part of his Eagle Project, a necessary step in securing Eagle Scout rank.  I don’t know about your kids, but mine are huge fans of this dodgeball relative played in an octagonal pit.   

Not sure how to play? Here’s a demonstration.

Pay it forward. 

Last month there was a tragic house fire that displaced a local family and claimed many of their belongings. According to a post shared by Representative Dianne Herrin, “This family has served our community through their work in several of our wonderful restaurants and could really use our help at this time.” 

If you would like to help, gift cards to assist with food and necessities would be much appreciated and can be dropped off at Dorothy Day Center at 233 W. Gay Street ℅ Barbara Kirby or at Malena’s Vintage Boutique located at 101 W. Gay Street. Both locations will assure the cards are delivered to the family at their temporary housing location.    

Also, are you a borough resident, work or own property in the borough and have ideas to improve for the downtown business district? Well, it’s your lucky day. The BID is seeking volunteers. Join committees like the Business Attraction Committee (maybe you can be the one to finally convince Trader Joe’s to come to town), the Customer Attraction Committee, or the Advocacy and Design Committee. 

If you are interested in participating in one of our committees please email John O’Brien at jobrien@wcbid.com.

Finally help spread the word – West Chester Area School District will continue to provide a week of meals for each child in the household up to age 18. The meals will be distributed behind Fugett Middle School (near the Café) from 11:00-1:00 each Wednesday from June 16th- August 25th.

The freakin’ weekend.

Happy Birthday, kiddo.

What are you up to this weekend? We are hosting a birthday party for our goofy, sweet in public, loud at home, “Not my, Isaac” middle child. This will be our first non-family only party since the pandemic and let’s just say, I could have gone another year without planning a kid’s birthday party, but he’s excited so I guess that’s what counts. 

If you aren’t planning on hosting a bunch of first graders this weekend, here are few other options for you.

Tonight is the last First Friday of the summer. There are specials, stores are open later, metered street parking is free. Really, just an excuse to head downtown. The Grower’s Market is celebrating National Farmers Week on Saturday. Get down there early and you can score a free reusable bag in addition to all your summer-ripe produce.  And have you seen the new outdoor seating area at Artillery? Me neither, but after our little soiree I may need to go check it out. It looks amazing. 

Just don’t go to Two Birds Café. They are on vacation this weekend. Don’t worry, I am sure those pancakes will be just as delicious when they return. In the meantime, there’s always here

Mark your calendars:

Aug 5-7: WCStudio presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, Family- friendly performance, Tickets $10 adults, $8 kids; see website for times

Aug. 8 – Touch a Truck Day, Chester County Government Services Complex

Aug. 11 – National Hip Hop Day, Melton Center, 6:30-8 p.m. Instruction provided by Diane Matthews School of Dance Arts.

Aug. 12 – Music at Marshall Square Park, 6:30 p.m. Free. Food trucks onsite if you want to make it dinner and a concert. 

Aug. 12 – Hotel Warner West Chester Mile, Henderson High School, 6:30 p.m., after post-race after party is planned at the Hotel Warner featuring complimentary burgers and hot dogs and drink specials. Race fee $25; registration required. 

Aug. 15 – Community Day, Melton Center, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Aug. 22 – Aug. 29 – WCU Campus Move-in, West Chester Campus, Keep an eye out for parking and traffic restrictions. 

Aug. 26: Dueling Pianos, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $20 in advance; $23 at the door

Sept. 10 – Uptown’s Grand Reopening with the Urban Guerilla Orchestra, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $42-$49 (plus $3 service fee)

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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