COVID-19 outbreak has Greensburg-Salem Middle School going virtual for 2 weeks

GREENSBURG, Pa. — A Westmoreland County middle school has had so many COVID-19 cases that the school will close for the next two weeks.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has deemed recent increases in positive COVID-19 results at the Greensburg-Salem Middle School as an outbreak.

Greensburg-Salem School District Acting Superintendent Ken Bissell said that on Friday the middle school had just under 20 positive cases. By Monday, that number had doubled. Their quarantine numbers also increased.

“The outbreak was schoolwide and wasn’t contained to a specific grade or classroom,” said School Board President Ron Mellinger. “Two weeks of remote learning is better than infecting the whole school, which could overlap to the whole district because siblings of middle school kids could infect our other buildings. A closure is recommended by the DOH based on our cases, so we are following our plan which was submitted to the state.”

More than 5% of students and faculty in the middle school tested positive. The Department of Health recommends a 14-day suspension of in-person learning when the percentage of positive cases hits 5%. In a school with between 500-900 students and staff, that equates to 25-45 cases. Bissell said they’re working on contact tracing, but it’s difficult.

“We get different stories, from Halloween parties to different events,” Bissell said. “They could happen in the school, out of the school. We’re hearing a lot of them were from out-of-school events and activities, but it’s very difficult for our nurses to really pinpoint where it went back to.”

Greensburg Salem Middle School families; The Pennsylvania Department of Health has deemed recent increases in positive...

Posted by Greensburg Salem School District on Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Greensburg-Salem Middle School will be closed for face-to-face instruction from Tuesday, Nov. 9, through Sunday, Nov. 21. Face-to-face instruction will continue on Monday, Nov. 22.

“Our classrooms Monday were about half the students weren’t in some of our classrooms,” Bissell said. “Now, we’re able to just get them all in the remote learning environment and make sure they’re still learning.”

Middle school children will report to their classrooms in a remote synchronous format, using Microsoft Teams. All middle school learners will follow their daily schedule and meeting times.

“Our teachers have been prepared for remote learning the whole year. We’ve been telling them at any moment we have to close,” Bissell said.

All middle school extra-curricular activities will be shut down from Nov. 9 through Nov. 21.

On Tuesday, the entire middle school building was deep-cleaned, and the district’s health and safety committee will review how everything was handled.

“Just to review what took place,” Bissell said. “Review our procedures for all of this, and taking that back to our school board to have a discussion on the whole thing.”

All middle school extra-curricular activities will be shut down from Nov. 9 through Nov. 21.