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Westmoreland Co. listed as ‘substantial’ risk for community spread for second straight week

WESTMORELAND CO., Pa. — For the second week in a row, Pa. health officials listed Westmoreland County as “substantial” regarding the risk of contracting COVID-19 through community spread.

When the risk moves from “moderate” to “substantial,” the Department of Education recommends schools move to an all-virtual learning model.

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Penn Trafford School District’s superintendent told families they will not be following this guidance, and schools will remain open.

In the announcement, Matthew Harris said, in part: “Penn Trafford has decided to remain open in the same manner as we are currently operating. We will continue to identify COVID-19 cases and make determinations for closures on a building by building basis according to the data that is available.”

Last week, the county saw a large spike in new cases, with more than 100 on consecutive days.

However, Dr. Anthony D’Alessio, with Allegheny Health Network, told Channel 11 he believes schools can safely stay open.

“As long as they follow the CDC recommendations, all children wear masks at all times, keep social distancing and hand hygiene is extremely important,” he said.

The district did close four schools in the last few weeks because of COVID-19.

Tuesday, the Greater Latrobe School District announced it will move to remote learning on Monday, Nov. 2,

The district will stay with its current model until the end of the week to finish the first nine-week grading period and for parents to prepare for the change, according to a news release.

Some parents told Channel 11 they are frustrated by the district’s decision to return to virtual learning because of the difficulty it poses to their children.

“My kids thrive in a brick and mortar setting, and when we started the year out it was very difficult,” said Latrobe parent Steve Peipock. “Latrobe has tremendous teachers in a brick and mortar setting, but they’re not online teachers and that’s to no fault of theirs. They’re doing everything they can to make it right.”

Superintendent Dr. Georgia Teppert said it wasn’t an easy call and that the district is following recommendations from the county’s top doctors.

“The agenda for the district should be what is best for the student’s as a whole. Because as educators the children’s enrichment should be priority No. 1, not the agenda of the state,” Peipock said.

Ligonier Valley School District is taking the same approach. The superintendent there said the latest statistics are worrisome.