By Tony DeGol
In response to coronavirus concerns, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that all K-12 Pennsylvania schools — including Catholic schools in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown — will be closed for 10 business days effective Monday, March 16. The administration has been working with school districts as well as state and local officials to gather input on this decision.
Governor Wolf made the following statement:
“We understand that these are trying times and recognize the impact of the coronavirus on our students and communities. First and foremost, my top priority as governor – and that of our education leaders – must be to ensure the health and safety of our students and school communities. As such, I am ordering that all schools in the commonwealth close for the next two weeks. Be aware that no school district will be penalized if it fails to meet the 180 day or school hours requirements. The Department of Education will work with intermediate units and other stakeholders to support school districts with any continuity of learning plans they may be pursuing. Also, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced today that it received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow eligible schools to serve meals to low income students in a non-congregate setting, such as a drive-through or grab and go, during this closure. We will also work with schools to assist them with those plans. We appreciate your collaboration as we work together to deal with this difficult issue.”
Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Director of Education Jo-Ann Semko said she supports Governor Wolf’s decision.
“Our first priority is student safety, which extends to our families also,” Semko said. “Because of all the unknowns, this seems to be a very prudent decision.”
All Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown schools are prepared either with on-line educational services or packets have been sent home with the younger students, Semko noted.
“If by chance your child did not take all their necessary materials home today, the schools will make a time available on Monday for students to come and pick up their materials.”
Semko stressed that the Diocesan Education Office will be open next week and invites parents with any questions or concerns to contact the office at (814) 695-5579.