Coronavirus readiness addressed at Hampton school board meeting

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 | 4:17 PM

While Allegheny County Health Department indicates that the presence of coronavirus locally remains low, a brief discussion on the disease was held at the recent Hampton Township School District school board meeting.

Dr. Michael Loughead, superintendent for Hampton school district, addressed any possible concerns there may be regarding the coronavirus at the March 2 regular meeting.

He said the district is keeping in close communication with the Allegheny County Health Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Education on any direction they may need to take in the event the current status of the virus gets to a more significant level. And if there is any outbreak they will “act immediately on their recommendation,” he said.

They will also keep families and students up-to-date on any issue, he said.

Coronavirus, or covid-19, is a respiratory disease with symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing, according to the Allegheny County Health Department website. There are no vaccines and no medications approved to treat it. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death.

Information per the ACHD website last week currently lists that there are no confirmed cases of covid-19 in Pennsylvania. However, some are expected as testing is expanded.

And it lists the current likelihood of local exposure remaining low.

Like the school district, local municipalities like Hampton are following the lead of the county health department, said Hampton Township Municipal Manager Christopher Lochner.

He said the township has been asked to disseminate information recently released by the ACHD regarding the virus and its potential effects on the township website and Facebook pages as well as post it throughout township-owned facilities such as the Community Center.

“In that this virus is a strain of the flu, short of disinfecting public areas, which we are doing in the Community Center, there’s not much more that we’ve been asked or need to do at this time. Should circumstances change, we will, of course, look at taking additional steps such as possibly closing the Community Center for a time to avoid public gathering areas. However, I would be surprised if it would come to that,” said Lochner.

Loughead said it’s best practice to have good hygiene and use the same precautions as one would do regarding flu prevention. And don’t send a child to school if they are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, he said. The same should apply for those going to work and are feeling symptomatic, he said.

If something does get to a more significant level, Loughead said “we do feel prepared.”

The district recently communicated with district families via a letter on a reminder of school policy on illness along with information on the virus. It indicated the district remains vigilant and is monitoring official information from the ACHD regarding this issue

And, if there was ever a need for school closure, Loughead said they have the flexible instruction days approved and ready to go. Flexible instructional days will allow teachers to provide online instruction to students at home so it would count as a school day.

Pennsylvania Department of Education allows up to five days of flexible instruction days after built-in snow makeup days are utilized. It can be used not only for inclement weather, but also for any emergency closure of the school.