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TASD all virtual to Nov. 30
  • Updated

The Tunkhannock Area School Board last Wednesday (Nov. 18) received new information that the three COVID-positive cases identified two days earlier was now seven, and its members voted unanimously that classes would go completely virtual until Monday, Nov. 30.

Superintendent Heather McPherson said Wednesday that the district now has two cases among children and five among adults, and they touch all four of the district’s buildings.

Although stating that he believed students were actually safer in school than the community at large, board member William Prebola said, “We need to follow the data, and see where this goes.”

Board member Shauna Gregory said, “We don’t want kids to be scared or nervous. We just think this is the right thing to do.”

McPherson addressed contact tracing, and said 13 individuals have tested negative, and the district was awaiting the results of tests given to eight adults and four children.

Prebola said, “We’re not asking everyone to be tested, but if you feel like you’re showing symptoms you need to consult with your doctor and follow his or her advice on testing.”

McPherson also had advice for parents with families gathering for Thanksgiving to not let down their guard. “You have to work together to be together,” she said.

Up to this past Monday (Nov. 16), Tunkhannock’s lower grades were meeting five days a week, and grades 8-12 were following a hybrid model of two in-school days and three out-of-school. Until Nov. 30, classes on non-vacation days in all grades will all be virtual.

There was also substantial discussion about allowing for the winter sports seasons to unfold with PIAA guidelines of practices within basketball, swimming and wrestling beginning the following Friday and concerns about a new mask mandate.

Despite the school being closed for in-school classes, the board voted unanimously to allow the sports programs to proceed.

However, later in the board meeting two members of the public came forward and challenged the preferential treatment athletes were getting and also the danger of putting them at risk in the wake of rising active COVID-19 caseloads in the community.

Board member John Burke, participating virtually in the meeting at the high school auditorium, said he took to heart the expressed concerns that were expressed by the public.

Board member William Prebola explained all of the protocols the athletic department had used in the fall season, and saw no reason they wouldn’t work for the winter seasons.

But, then in an about face, said he heard the expressions of concern and was wanting to revisit the matter and not have athletic practices to begin until after Nov. 30. That passed, 8-1, with Lori Bennett voting against the measure.

On Wednesday, the school board also:

  • Approved a memorandum of understanding between TASD and the TA Educational Support Personnel Association which essentially extended the support personnel’s contract allowing for a 35 cents an hour increase in pay from 2019-20 to 2020-21.

Committed $2.5 million on last year’s financial statement for the purpose of future PSERS rate increases;

  • Heard from tax collector Connie Lawrence who spoke on behalf of her peers that no increase would be requested for collection of school/property taxes during the current year;
  • Approved paying Postler & Jaeckle Corp $15,600 for work performed on air handlers in the Administrative Center gym;
  • Approved advisorships for the following student groups: FBLA (Lauren Colbenson), FCCLA (Lori Bishop), FFA (Steve Traver), Robotics (Scott Howell) and Skills USA (Jan Cechak), and IC student activities (Lisa Sniscak);
  • Approved of Conrad Siegel Actuaries for 2020 ACA employer reporting;
  • Reviewed Kelly Services substitute teacher fill rate; and
  • Approved bus/van contracts as presented.

Under the superintendent’s report the board:

  • Approved Karen DePietro as a long term substitute in the TAIC for the second semester;
  • Approved Jennifer Jones as a long-term substitute in the TAPC from Nov. 23 to the end of the school year;
  • Approved volunteers (Richard Appleby, Scott Davies, Beth Gregory, Sheri Harvatine, Robert Miller, Benjamin Siegel, and Megan Stone).

Approved coaches: girls basketball (JV/Dan Williams, fresh/Adryana Appleby, 8th/Robert Brown, 7th/Shannon Salvador); boys basketball (JV/Stan Harder, fresh/Ryan Luce, 7th/Brian Gregory), wrestling (asst/Dakota Quick, JH/Thomas Walsh, JH asst/Ray Woods, and diving (Sawyer Aitken).

  • Approved scoreboard/timers for wresting (William Fassett, Charlotte carpenter, Robert Hegedty, Mike Marabell, and Tom Johnson), and for basketball (Ron Hampsey and Gabrielle Hampsey); and
  • Approved lifeguards (Jodi Crimmel, Kellie Wynne, and Thurston Sick).

The school board is planning to meet again on Saturday, Nov. 28, in the high school auditorium at 7 p.m. to see where the data is at that point, to make a path forward.

Lights wow community
  • Updated

One of Wyoming County’s favorite holiday traditions is returning for its fourth year.

The Festival of Lights at Stone Hedge Golf Club in Tunkhannock opened Friday night and runs through Dec. 31, excluding Christmas Eve.

Every year, the back nine on Stone Hedge’s golf course is transformed into a magical scene of Christmas trees, Santa Clauses waving hello, dinosaurs, superheroes, and kids favorite movie characters from The Wizard of Oz to Toy Story.

Karen Force is the co-owner of Stone Hedge, along with Bill Ruark. She said that working on the lightshow is a year-round job, and she’s always looking to add new ideas to the Christmas tour.

“Even though it’s been a tough year getting supplies, we were able to add a couple new ideas to the show, which I’m keeping as a surprise,” Force said. “We built all of the new displays ourselves and that’s a testament to the talented crew that we have here.”

Setting up the two-and-a-half mile drive-through light show has been going on for the past six weeks. As soon as the last golf tournament of the season ends, the 15-person grounds crew and more than a few volunteers get to work on wrapping lights around trees, setting up the famous light river, and building the colorful Christmas tunnels for all to see.

“It takes a small army, and that army is the best,” Force said. “They work their butts off and a lot of them volunteer. As soon as the festival ends, they’re already talking about what we could do better for next year. It’s a dedicated group of people.”

This year’s light show took 66,000 feet of extension cords, which equates to almost 11 miles. All the cords are owned by the golf course, and set up by the grounds crew. It also uses almost 4 million light bulbs, thousands of which have to be changed by hand.

Another thing that has changed this year is how the light show is run.

Force said that the display is now being run by electricity rather than generators as in years past.

“In the summer, we had a brand new electrical system that was installed in the woods, which is enough to power us through,” Force said. “We own three generators, but we also needed to rent three backup generators in case one of them stopped working. This year, the only thing we have to worry about is if the power goes out.”

Tunkhannock Township supervisor Hoyt Keiser is excited for the amount of people that make their way to the area, considering the light show, “a great way to show off the beauty of the area.”

“And with people needing the holiday spirit more than ever this year,” Keiser said, “this is a perfect activity for a family night out.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic some slight changes will be made to the festival for when you get out of your car. The pavilion will have less seats than usual to comply with social distancing measures. Santa Claus pictures will also not be taking place like they normally would, however Force said that there might be some surprise visits.

“You’ll see Santa Claus some nights come in and wave to the kids from the parking lot,” Force said. “You won’t know which nights though, because that is gonna be a surprise.”

Food such as hot dogs, s’mores, hot chocolate and apple cider will still be sold in the pavilion, but the kids’ train rides will be canceled for the year, because there is not adequate space to social distance on the trains.

Force said that her favorite part of the show is seeing the little kids’ faces getting out of the cars after being amazed by the colorful trail of gingerbread men, nativity scenes, the 12 days of Christmas, and even a patriotic Statue of Liberty display with fireworks above her crown.

“This show is my baby, I work on it all year,” Force said. “And to see the crowds that came through last year, it was really exciting. We’re expecting a giant turnout this year for the six weeks that we’re open.”

Stone Hedge Golf Course is located at 55 Stonehedge Drive in Tunkhannock. You can approach it about four miles east of Tunkhannock Borough on Route 6 and then turn south on Saddle Lake Road; or about a mile west of Lake Winola on Route 307, you can turn north on German Hill Road, until it’s hard to miss the lights.

The lights festival is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. ($25 per car) and Friday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m.

For more information on the Festival of Lights, you can call 570-836-5108 or look for the ‘Festival of Lights 2020’ event on Facebook.

ELSB vexed about state travel advice
  • Updated

Elk Lake School Board had a mostly routine virtual board meeting Thursday night, that is, until superintendent Ken Cuomo raised concerns about a newly imposed state mandate travel directive, handed down Tuesday.

That day, Dr. Rachel Levine of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said that effective midnight Friday morning,people who plan to visit Pennsylvania should get tested for COVID-19 within three days before visiting and stay at their destination for two weeks or until the test comes back negative.

People who travel out of state should quarantine for two weeks unless they get a negative test result and can return within three days, Levine said.

So, Cuomo surmised, someone desiring to take a day off shopping, say at Vestal, N.Y., for instance on Black Friday, would have to sit out-of-state three days before being allowed to return.

Cuomo said that in his 30 years of being in education, he had never seen such a problem placed before him that couldn’t be changed into a win-win. He said it was a vexing problem, too, for the other schools that are members of the Northeast Intermediate Unit.

He expressed a need to appropriately advise staff, students and their parents about how to conduct themselves leading into the Thanksgiving holiday.

Short of being able to come up with a solution to be presented to stakeholders, Cuomo said he would try to draft something helpful to be given out, but asked the school board if it might have another board meeting for 6 p.m., Monday. He said it could be cancelled if a workable statement were devised, that board members were comfortable with.

Because this paper went to press at 4 p.m., Monday, the direction taken at Elk Lake is not clear, although we will have the latest update in our e-edition at www.wcexaminer.com.

In the principal’s reports, Marc Weisgold of the elementary school, thanked Jayne’s Orchard for 100 pumpkins used by the students, and acknowledged a safety drill and lockdown from which he appreciated the contribution of the state police. He also spoke to a “little different” Veterans Day program with a 16-minute video.

Special education director Pamela Staats said her department had been very busy, but numbers were down a little bit. She noted that her staff still had to do parent conferences in December.

High School principal John Warnero thanked Peoples Security Bank for a $25,000 gift which supported dual enrollment programs; he noted Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Ely updated the Warrior monument in front of the school; he thanked the chorus and band for its virtual program supporting Veterans Day; he also acknowledged a life skills class project that caused him to well up with pride, and added the high school also had a safety drill and report cards were out.

Asst. principal Peter Kolankoski provided an update of the fall sports seasons just completed. He also looked ahead to PIAA guidelines for winter seasons with concerns about a mask mandate. First official practices will be Dec. 4 with scrimmages Dec. 11 and first game competition Dec. 26.

Board member Ann Teel expressed concern about the annual alumni game having to be cancelled and wondered aloud about the county basketball tourney the last week of December which Elk Lake will be hosting this year.

Cuomo noted that all youth sports’ use of the facilities would be postponed until further notice.

Board members did approve quite a rash of updated school policies in both the Elk Lake district as well as the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center. They included such things as discipline of students with disabilities, behavior support, confidentiality of special education student information, extracurricular activities, interscholastic athletics, sudden cardiac arrest, immunizations and communicable diseases, health examinations/screenings, telework, physical examination, attendance and tardiness, job-related expenses, working periods, sick leave, responsibility for student welfare, facilities and workplace safety, school calendar, public attendance at school events, school visitors, safety committee bylaws update, special sick leave, travel policy revision, and school board member emails.

In the extracurricular area fall coaches to be compensated were cross country (boys, Will Squier; and girls, Jehiel Boner and Leanna Bell); golf, (Ryan Kipar and Clint Tyler); soccer (boys, Craig Sprout and boys jv, Jason Casselbury).

Activity positions approved were Gary Johnson (boys basketball 7), Nicki Morgan (cheerleading), Miguel Echeveria (swimming varsity asst.), Tanya Boatman (drama director and pianist), Ina Bradish (costume director), Sherry Evans (jr. high honor society), Jen Teel (Key Club) and Kristine Smith (sr. high student council).

The board also added Terry Blaisure and Tim Jayne to the professional substitute list.

A list of class advisers was also approved that included: 12th (Ryan Kipar and Lauren Shovlin), 11th (Kathleen Amabile and Lauren Shovlin), 10th (Jennifer Teel and Lesliey Tewksbury), 9th (Fred Hein and John Pierson), 8th (Marie Michalek and Tony Rezykowski) and 7th (Lesley Tewksbury and Coleen Warholic).

In the area of special education, Jen Ward was added to the leadership team, and Kristin Bassett was hired as a full-trime one-on-one paraeducator.

The legal firm of Sweet, Stevens, Katz, William was rehired for 2021-2 with no change in rates for services on the current contract.

The board also gave a thumbs-up to a fall school play called ‘Working’ which will be done virtually and require nine cast members and three crew.

In the Susquehanna County Career and Technology board meeting which occupied roughly the first 30 minutes of the evening, SCCTC Director Alice Davis acknowledged that 35 students had graduated from the CDL (commercial drivers license) program to date, and all of them had jobs.

Toward the end of the SCCTC meeting it was acknowledged that more than 98 people were signed on to listen in on the virtual Google Hangouts board meeting, and if it reached 100 would be a limit, so a second platform was opened to allow more people in, if needed.

Davis spoke to how the first months of the semester had gone, and acknowledged a $46,401 check from Cabot that was to go to scholarships for 9-12 students.

In open items discussed at the end of both board meetings, members addressed a contractual arrangement with maintenance staff that allowed them to have the Monday after Thanksgiving off for ‘Deer Day.’ However, since the game commission moved the start of buck season up, the board voted to change the day off for maintenance staff from Monday to Friday. The board also moved its December meeting date from Dec. 8 to Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.

Woman accused of killing daughter, 4, in crash

A 29-year-old Montrose woman was drunk when she crashed her car Wednesday evening (Nov. 18) in Rush Twp., killing her 4-year-old daughter, state police at Gibson said.

Paige Lynn Scully, of 5435 state Route 367, faces charges including homicide by vehicle while DUI, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, recklessly endangering another person, endangering the welfare of children and other related counts, Trooper Keith Herbert wrote in a criminal complaint.

At about 10 p.m., troopers rushed to the 5900 block of Route 367 in Rush Twp. after a report of a crash. While on the way there, Herbert got word that a 4-year-old girl suffered serious injuries in the crash and was flown to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre.

The girl, who was identified only by her initials, died of her injuries at the hospital.

At the scene, Scully smelled of alcohol and failed a field sobriety test. She consented to a blood draw and was charged with DUI at the general impairment level while the test results are pending.

State police said Scully had her daughter in her Nissan Altima while driving south from a bar on Route 367. She lost control and crashed, state police said.

“Based upon my collective training, experience and observations, I determined that (Scully) was impaired by alcohol to a degree which rendered her incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle,” Herbert wrote in an affidavit supporting the charges.

Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey L. Hollister arraigned Scully on Thursday morning and jailed her at the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Dec. 7.

Riscavage big on holiday decor Page 7


Basketball on horizon? Page 13


COVID-19 cases keep climbing
  • Updated

For four days last week, Wyoming County reported a new fatality as the result of the COVID-19 virus.

In statistics released just after noon Monday by the Pennsylvania Department of Health for cases for the 24-hour period ending at midnight, the county’s positive cases believe to be COVID-19 related is 400

The cases had been mounting all week through Saturday. The number reflects an accumulated total since April 2, when the first case was reported: Nov. 16 (313); Nov. 17 (336); Nov. 18 (344); Nov. 19 (362); Nov. 20 (372); Nov. 21 (388); Nov. 22 (394); Nov. 23 (400). That is a rolling average of 12 new positive cases a day in Wyoming County.

The following are confirmed cases in Wyoming County (and neighboring counties that share zip code): Tunkhannock (18657): 183; Factoryville (18419): 38; Nicholson (18446): 31; Mehoopany (18629): 18; Laceyville (18623): 26; Meshoppen (18630): 26; Falls (18615): 21; Dalton (18414): 50; Harveys Lake (18618): 50; Springville (18844): 7; and Noxen (18636): 21.

'Endless Mountains Christmas' brings cheer

Christmas during a global pandemic, it’s not something that anyone thought they would ever have to deal with, but in 2020, it’s become the focused reality of the world.

Lots of small businesses depend on the Christmas season to stay afloat, which is why the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau decided to create its 2020 campaign, An Endless Mountains Christmas.

EMVB director Jean Ruhf said that ‘An Endless Mountains Christmas’ highlights events small businesses are conducting during the holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. It is the ultimate guide for holiday shopping and entertainment in Wyoming, Sullivan and Susquehanna County.

Ruhf said that with everything going on in 2020, the bureau was just trying its best to give back to the community.

“The idea started to put the campaign together in the middle of September,” Ruhf said. “Then by October, we started asking different businesses if they wanted to take part, and the amount of response we got was overwhelming.”

In the Endless Mountains Christmas brochure, you can find everything advertised from sales at Christmas tree farms, to specials at wineries and breweries, holiday events, and even Christmas season deals from furniture and antique stores.

It also provides residents of Wyoming County plenty of places to shop and eat locally during the holiday season, something Ruhf says we can all do to help out our fellow neighbor, especially during times like these.

“What’s nice about shopping locally is that you are helping a local family business survive during COVID,” Ruhf said. “These days everyone is turning to the internet to shop, but you can get basically anything you want from all of these businesses. You can make it a family fun outing, go cut down your Christmas tree, go shopping, and then go out to eat.”

One of those places where people can go and eat is T&C Grille/Bakery 420, located in the Tioga West Plaza in Tunkhannock, where you can sit down for a nice meal, or buy some homemade cookies, pies and cinnamon rolls for your holiday dessert table.

T&C Grille owner Connie Wiser said that it has been a tough year for the restaurant business and said the EMVB highlighting local businesses is something that could be a huge help to her restaurant.

“It’s absolutely great that the community is supporting us, it has been a very tough year with the restaurant restrictions, and people are dying to try and find some normalcy in their life.” Wiser said. “Hopefully, this campaign gets people to venture out to new places.”

You can order holiday platters from the bakery consisting of nut rolls, pies, or whatever you have a taste for your holiday parties from Friday, Nov. 27 through Saturday, Dec. 19.

“Restaurants like ours need the support,” Wiser said. “A lot of families are still going to be taking part in their holiday traditions, and supporting local businesses is one of the best traditions that you can have.”

One of the unique things about an Endless Mountains Christmas is that it has its own unique jingle to go with it. Comfort Inn and Suites Tunkhannock General Manager Gary Kaschak is also an award winning musician and songwriter who goes by the name Gary Carl, and he took time to write the song ‘Endless Mountains Christmas’ as the official song of the campaign.

You can find the Endless Mountains Christmas brochures at most businesses throughout Wyoming County, you can also have one sent to you for free by calling 570-836-5431 or by emailing info@endlessmountains.org.

“So many communities have had to cancel all of their big Christmas celebrations,” Ruhf said. “The pandemic has given such a hard time to small businesses that we can’t let them suffer. From Ebb’s Candy Jar and Winter Wonderland to Bennie’s Nursery Tree Farm to all the events happening at the Dietrich Theater, we have something for everyone.”

The Endless Mountains Christmas campaign officially kicks off with the Stone Hedge Golf Course Festival of Lights that debuted on Friday, Nov. 20, and continues with events and deals through New Years Day.

“Giving back to the community is the perfect way to spread Christmas spirit, and everyone needs Christmas spirit right now,” Ruhf said. “I see people putting their Christmas decorations up earlier. Anything that makes us happy, we need in our lives, and that’s the goal of the Endless Mountains Christmas campaign.”