Pa.’s schools are closed for the rest of the year; now what?

Districts are left to figure out nuts and bolts of virtual learning

  • Ed Mahon

Here’s what I remember about kindergarten: Stopping at Wawa on the walk home to buy hot dogs for lunch, searching for The Letter People in class, and wearing a blue cap and gown for a small graduation ceremony. My oldest son started kindergarten in August. His experience is turning out to be a lot different than mine, and with Gov. Tom Wolf’s Thursday announcement that schools would remain closed for the rest of this academic year, I find myself wondering what my son will remember about his kindergarten experience.— Ed Mahon, PA Post reporter

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Parked school buses are lined up at the storage area while they are idled during school closings due to the COVID-19 and coronavirus outbreak, Monday, March 30, 2020, in Zelienople, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Gov. Tom Wolf says closing K-12 schools for the rest of the academic year is in the best interest of students, school employees and families as public health officials continue to try to curb the spread of coronavirus. The Wolf administration is urging schools to offer virtual instruction, although Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said he doesn’t have the authority to force districts to do so, as this story with reporting from WHYY and The Associated Press explains.

That story also notes this very useful map published by Education Week that shows how states are handling school closures across the country. As of yesterday evening, 17 other states either ordered or recommended school closures for the rest of the academic year. Additionally, schools in New Jersey and North Dakota are closed indefinitely.

Following Wolf’s announcement, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the PIAA cancelled all high school sports under its jurisdiction, which includes all Pennsylvania public schools and the Philadelphia Catholic, have also been cancelled.

The Morning Call looked at what the closures mean for high school athletes: “There’s a number of seniors who will not continue their athletic career; a large number,” said Bryan Geist, the Northern Lehigh High School athletic director. “They’ll never, ever compete at the collegiate level and those are the kids I feel really bad for because they had the expectation of one more season.”

Each school district is figuring out its own path forward:

Meanwhile, PennLive’s Jan Murphy looks at how students and professors at the 14 state-owned universities are adjusting to remote learning, which universities are already doing or start on Monday. The story includes a charming song parody, performed by a Millersville University meteorology professor.

And in a sign of the volatile college admissions market, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the University of Pittsburgh, one of four state-related universities that receives funding from Pennsylvania’s general fund, says four regional-campuses will be ACT and SAT test-optional as a pilot program. On the other side of the state, Haverford College is dropping the testing requirement altogether for at least the next three years.

For college students who are graduating this year, the job market is pretty bleak, Susan Snyder reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Still, there’s hope. “There is a lot that has stopped, but not the whole world has stopped,” Kevin Grubb, executive director of Villanova’s career center, told Snyder. —Ed Mahon

Best of the rest


On March 30, Susie Carl treated her first COVID-19 positive patient. (Screenshot from video diary, courtesy WITF.)

  • A day in the life of a nurse practitioner: WITF health reporter Keira McGuire worked with health care provider Susie Carl to create this intimate video diary. “Every day last week was a like a new — a new level of nightmare becoming a new norm,” Carl says in the piece.

  • Cases in all Pennsylvania counties: As of yesterday, the state reported 18,228 cases and 338 related deaths. All 67 Pennsylvania counties now have a case, as WHYY noted in its live coverage.

  • Seeking public art projects to bridge social distancing: WESA has details on the idea, which is challenging artists to innovate in Pittsburgh. The projects have to be “widely sharable” with the public; virtual projects are an option.

  • Portraits of a Pandemic: That’s the name of a new project from  The Philadelphia Inquirer and The 19th, a nonprofit newsroom covering gender, politics and policy. “Each week, we will profile a woman in Philadelphia grappling with the pandemic,” they write. “We hope you’ll find these stories informative, humanizing and inspiring.” Editor-at-large Errin Haines describes how the first female pastor of a 130-year-old church is navigating the crisis.

Coronavirus must-reads:

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