TASD Addresses Student Instruction and Nutrition During Coronavirus Shutdown


Haydn Loudenslager

The Tyrone Area School District Administration addressed the Covid-19 pandemic in a communication to staff this morning.

As COVID-19 finds its way into Blair County, area schools have also been battling a different virus: lack of education. 

It’s been two weeks since school has been in session and there is no immediate end in sight to the Coronavirus crisis. However, several steps were taken by the state and the school district to answer some school related questions this week.

On the state level, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 751 into law, relaxing the state’s 180 school day requirement and ensuring that Pennsylvania school employees will be paid despite the closure. Governor Wolf also canceled state assessment tests such as the Keystone Exam and the PSSAs. 

On Thursday, the school district made optional grade level resources available to students on the Tyrone district website. For families without reliable internet access, printed copies were also placed in front of each school building for pickup.

“I want to thank [the teachers] who worked to submit our first round of learning activities for our students this week,” said Tyrone Acting Superintendent Leslie Estep in an email, “[They] did a great job putting these activities together with one another virtually and with only those materials that they had at home or on their computers.”

It is absolutely necessary to isolate in order to “flatten the curve. Regardless a lot of people are going to get sick; however, the number of deaths will be reduced if we do not overwhelm the health care system all at once”

— Susan Cannistraci, Biology Teacher at Tyrone

Estep said that on Monday the administration, principals and teachers will continue working on a longer term plan to address how future instruction might be conducted online.  More information on this plan will be released when it is completed and approved.

The district also sent a survey to homes across the district to gauge the number of people with reliable access to the internet, so far 400 households have participated. 

While many TAHS teachers, like biology teacher Susan Cannistraci, are unsure about the long term effectiveness of online instruction, considering the lack of other options, most are optimistic about its short term benefits. 

“Although it mirrors my classes pretty well, [online instruction] does not and cannot replicate the benefits of one on one instruction, the benefits of working cooperatively in groups, and the manipulative skills gained from doing labs,” said Cannistraci. 

Despite its drawbacks and the learning curve that they face under current circumstances, the teachers are ready to get back to teaching.

In addition to the loss of instruction, thousands of students are also missing two meals a day that were being provided to them at school.

This week the school district and The Nutrition Group established pick up points for breakfast and lunch food in Tyrone, Warriors Mark, Sinking Valley and Bald Eagle on Mondays and Thursdays.

For more information about the school district program click here and to RSVP for food pick up, click here.

Tyrone schools are scheduled to reopen on April 9th. However, with first Coronavirus case in Blair County was reported two days ago, and Centre County is currently under a stay at home order, it is anticipated that the virus may spread into the Tyrone community soon.

Although many people joke about social distancing and self-isolation, it is important to remember that this is a dangerous pandemic and the closing of schools, workplaces, and public places are necessary.

“It is absolutely necessary to isolate in order to flatten the curve. Regardless, a lot of people are going to get sick; however, the number of deaths will be reduced if we do not overwhelm the health care system all at once,” says Cannistraci.