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School Closures at LASD Highlight Need for COVID-19 Vaccine

After two school closures in two weeks, the Littlestown Area School District (LASD) is eagerly waiting for vaccines for the novel coronavirus to be available to school staff.

Superintendent Christopher Bigger said that the district had to close Maple Avenue Middle School and Littlestown Senior High School over a two-week period due to cases of COVID-19.

“I think that’s representative of the amount of cases you’re starting to see around the community,” Bigger said. “But we did make it a long time without having a closure, and I do want to thank everybody for that.”

Bigger said that contract tracing is time-consuming for staff.

“I am a little frustrated with the Department of Health,” he said. “That’s why you saw a licensed practical nurse request on the personnel committee. We end up doing all of the tracing, all of the phone calls. Today, the Department of Health was closed. I couldn’t talk to anybody. The Rapid Response Center– I couldn’t call anybody. So I made a decision to close the high school. I would have loved to have talked to them to get some thoughts on what they would think. I had to make a decision. So, we’re frustrated in Adams County around the vaccine rollout.”

Bigger said that once Adams moves into the 1-B vaccine phase, teachers will be in that category. The district sent a survey to staff to see how many plan to receive the vaccine so it will know how many to request.

“I’m as frustrated as I’m sure the employees are,” Bigger said.

Bigger said that while the district is trying to focus on education, it is difficult to do during a pandemic, particularly with the amount of time spent contact tracing.

“I don’t want to dwell on it, but it seems to be consuming us more and more every day,” he said.

Bigger said that often, the district calls families and the Department of Health will call the same family about two days later due to the backlog. He echoed the same frustration that some other districts have as they struggle to get rapid guidance from the state regarding cases.

“We end up having to make decisions because it’s better to make a decision quicker and get it done than to wait for a return call two days later and more people are exposed,” Bigger said.

The school board unanimously approved changing the school calendar to include two-hour early dismissal on Fridays beginning January 29. The change will last through the end of the school year.

Board Recognition Month

Bigger recognized the nine members of the school board in honor of Pennsylvania’s School Director Recognition Month.

“You do the best you can to serve the students and the families of Littlestown,” Bigger said. “It goes without saying that without your support, the school district is hard-pressed to function, especially as high-functioning as we can be and we are in the district, so I appreciate your support and just thank you for your time and effort.”

The superintendent acknowledged the amount of unpaid work the board completes for the district.

“We debate, we argue, we discuss,” Bigger said. “Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. But I think that’s what good, local control of government can do. So, thank you for doing that for us.”

Bigger provided each female board member with a tote and each male board member with a gym bag.

Business Office Recognition

Bigger also recognized Mike Statler in the business office for its financial audit.

“Ninety percent of the schools do not receive an audit like we received,” Bigger said. “You heard that in at the last study session. So, congratulations to Mike and all of the business office staff for a job well done.”

Statler thanked Bigger for the award and thanked his own staff for their work in the business office: Karen Barnes, Jenifer Dooley, and Bonnie Zinneman.

“We really do truly appreciate that,” Statler said.

Students of the Month

The board watched several videos introducing the Students of the Month, with videos featuring the students and/or their teachers talking about the students’ personalities, interests and successes.

The students are:

– Willow Taylor

– Lillian Smith

– Ava Bentzel

– Ayden Dillon

– Carleigh O’Neill

2020 Teacher Impact Award

The board watched a video about district kindergarten teacher Justine Garman, the 2020 Teacher Impact Award winner. The video featured Garman talking about herself and her class, with clips from Garman’s classroom.

Read More About Justine Garman

Bigger said she won the award in the summer, but the video was just released in the last few weeks.

“I always, always, always said that I want my students to remember me; in kindergarten they’re so young,” Garman said in the video. “It’s very easy to forget your kindergarten teacher; when you’re in high school, you remember those high school teachers that impacted you. So, I just hope that something I do in the room or something I said, that they’ll remember me for years to come.”

The next regular board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22. Meetings are recorded on Facebook Live on the district’s Facebook page.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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