Webstock Twin Valley High School

A 'Welcome to Raider Country' banner is seen in front of Twin Valley High School. Some students want the school to drop its Native American mascot.

Officials in the Twin Valley School District reported that a high school student has tested positive for COVID-19 the same day they announced they will be ending a virtual learning option for elementary school families.

In a message sent to district families Tuesday, superintendent Dr. Robert Pleis wrote that the district was notified of the positive test earlier that day. The student last attended school on Oct. 13, the message states.

"We have notified all close contacts that we are aware of they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and instructed them to quarantine for 14 days since the time of their exposure," Pleis wrote.

The school will remain open.

Pleis' message said district officials are working with the state Department of Health to make sure the proper steps are taken to protect the health and safety of students and staff.

The student who tested positive will remain home until:

  • The student is at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
  • The student is 24 hours fever free without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • The student has improvement in their respiratory symptoms.

The message goes on to encourage parents to remain vigilant in watching for signs of COVID-19 in their children.

"If your child currently has symptoms or develops symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your child’s health care provider," it reads. "We encourage families to continue practicing proper hand hygiene, physical distancing when outside of the home, wearing face coverings, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas and checking health on a daily basis.'

The same day the district reported the positive COVID-19 test, Pleis sent a message to parents of elementary school students informing them that a virtual learning option will be ending.

Twin Valley has provided full in-person and fully virtual instruction where students watch a livestream of their classroom to start the school year for all grades. However, Pleis' message says that virtual classes for elementary students will cease on Nov. 4.

"We all recognize that in-person learning is the ideal learning environment for our community’s children," the message reads. "Our elementary schools have been successful over the last seven weeks with our efforts to mitigate the negative health effects of COVID-19. In recognition of our community’s success with in-person learning, Twin Valley will be transitioning to full in-person education by November 4, 2020."

The message asks for parents to return technology devices and school materials the district had provided to assist with virtual lessons.

Some parents in the district expressed anger and frustration at the decision to eliminate the virtual option.

Parent Michelle Rathman-Reese said she and other parents assumed when the livestream option was presented at the start of the school year that it would be offered the entire year

"Everyone now will need to send their kids to school or find alternate education for their children," she said. "These kids have established relationships with their teachers and peers in their classroom and now it is being taken away."

Another parent, who asked not to be identified, said she feels the virtual option has been successful.

"This was presented as an option without an expiration date that would also allow for greater social distancing in the classroom," she said.

She said she worries about the ability for students to stay far enough apart from each other once virtual students return to the classroom and is frustrated with a lack of information about the change from the district.

"Their action seems arbitrary and unfair to livestream families," she said.

Anna Meitzler, who has two children in the district, also said she was blindsided by the decision to cut the virtual option.

"At no time was it stated that the livestream option would be temporary," she said.

Meitzler said she is concerned that the district isn't able to keep student properly distanced, even in the current situation with a portion of students learning virtually.

"We will now be forced to return our children to school into classrooms that are even more crowded than before," she said.

Meitzler also said she feels the district has lacked transparency in providing information about the number of virtual students and suspected COVID-19 cases. That transparency issues extends to the letter sent out by Pleis, she added.

"Nowhere within the letter were the reasons for the termination given, beyond that the elementary schools are doing well with in-person learning," she said.

And, Meitzler said, it's unclear why the district thinks now is the right time to make a change.

"With cases in Berks County increasing this seems like the wrong way to go to keep our children and everyone safe," she said.

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