Starting Thursday, Dec. 10, and running through Monday, Dec. 14, free COVID-19 testing will be available at the Wyoming County Emergency Operations Center, located at 3880 Route 6, Tunkhannock.
The hours of operation each day will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m..
Up to 450 persons can be tested per day.
Mid-nasal passage swab PCR tests will be performed. Testing is first-come, first serve basis and is completely free to all individuals. No appointment required. This is a drive-through operation. There is no out of pocket cost.
Patients are encouraged to bring a photo ID and insurance card with you. Registration will be completed on-site. Patients must be ages three and older and not required to show symptoms of COVID-19 in order to be tested.
The turnaround time for testing results is two to seven days.
The usual main entrance from Rt. 6 to the EMA building will be closed. Those interested in being tested will have to enter the EMA parking lot by turning on to SR1001 (Billings Mill Road) across from the D&C gas station east of Shadowbrook Resort. From there, take Sunnyside Road to the testing site.
Tunkhannock Township Police Chief Ed Morristell said that on the days testing is going on, they will not be able to access Sunnyside Road near Ace-Robbins.
Officials advise to be prepared to have some wait time, as many people are taking advantage of the free local testing.
For latest information for individuals, families, businesses, and schools, visit ‘Responding to COVID-19’ on www.pa.gov
Even though Jolly Old Saint Nicholas couldn’t make the visit from the North Pole to downtown Tunkhannock this year, he was still able to interact with local children thanks to modern technology.
The Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce sponsored ‘Santa at the Dietrich’ on Friday, Dec. 4 where kids were able to interact with Santa Claus on the big screen of the Dietrich Theater.
On what would have been the opening night of Christmas In Our Hometown when Santa normally arrives in Tunkhannock, the Chamber of Commerce still wanted to be able to give children a chance to interact with him, even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wanted to create an event that would bring some traffic into town,” Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce President Gina Suydam said. “We also didn’t want to let the kids down, so through the magic of technology, we were able to get Santa to talk to us from an undisclosed location at the North Pole.”
Because of social distancing measures, and state guidelines only allowing a capacity of 10 percent inside movie theaters, families had to register for a 15-minute time slot between 4-8 p.m. Suydam said that 50 kids from 27 families were registered for the event, and that registration filled up very quickly, as there were not many last minute seats available.
Seven-year-old Levi Brace was clearly excited to see Santa Claus on the big screen Friday evening.
With mom, Michelle, and siblings Jacob and Mia in tow, he was able to tell the big man what he wanted for Christmas.
“A four-wheeler,” Levi yelled as the theater erupted in laughter. “I’ve been really good this year, so I think I should get a big present.”
Before Santa appeared on the screen, the kids had to welcome him by singing the famous Christmas carol ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, and then he would then talk to each child individually for a couple of minutes to make sure they were good boys and girls this year, and asking what they wanted for Christmas.
“Sitting on Santa’s lap really wasn’t an option this year, so we created a safe environment where kids could still talk to Santa on the big screen,” WYCCC Events Coordinator Allison Schultz said. “It’s great to see all the smiles on the kids faces, them running into the theater and jumping out of their seats when Santa calls their name.”
When Santa was finished talking to all of the children, they were able to ask him any questions they wanted. The children truly put their imaginations to the test.
“How many times a day do you have to brush your teeth because of all the cookies that you eat?,” Jacob Brace asked.
“Three times a day, morning, noon and night,” Santa Claus answered. “Just like you all should be doing everyday.”
At the end of the session, Santa said goodbye and had one final message for all of the children that were present.
“Christmas is still a couple weeks away, you better keep being good,” he told the kids. “Also make sure to get to bed early on Christmas Eve, so I can get to your house early.”
As the children left, they were given make your own snowman cupcake kits provided by Tioga Bistro. The parents at the event were also given a bag containing some gift cards to Chamber businesses all throughout Wyoming County.
Tunkhannock’s ‘Christmas In Our Hometown’ celebration was scaled back Saturday because of COVID-19, but that didn’t make people stay away.
Lead organizer Nancy Parlo said that she was “thrilled with the turnout, and even without the big Friday night celebration, that people were still extremely happy.”
Parlo, who is director of the Tunkhannock Business and Professional Association which has staged the event for more than two decades, said that families seemed to enjoy getting out and journeying through the historic downtown to kick off the holiday season.
The highlight of the event was a visit from Santa Claus, and a couple of his reindeer, that were leased from a farm in Bloomsburg. Kids were still able to see Santa socially distanced behind a plexiglass door, and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
“The reaction to the event has been great,” Parlo added. “People have been very respectful of each other, wearing their masks and social distancing. Everyone that I have talked to has been very happy.”
Eileen Barziloski, owner of Ebb’s Candy Jar and Winter Wonderland, was thankful for all the traffic that she saw coming through her shop.
“This Hometown event is a gesture of good will to thank all of the people for supporting us throughout the year,” Barziloski said. “I am very blessed that even in a pandemic to have so many people enjoying the store, because it has been a rough year for all of us.”
Mercantile 22 on Tioga Street, was another business that saw a big influx of customers, co-owner Lisa Tizzoni was also very thankful for the community’s support.
“We had a lot of people who came in here today and said that they found the perfect Christmas gift for someone in their family,” Tizzoni said. “This is the busiest that the store has been in a while, and it is truly special to see.”
The crowd for the event was mostly locals, but Parlo noted that she had seen a number of people from outside the area as well, which brings more revenue to the local businesses.
Although some of the main events of ‘Christmas In Our Hometown’ like a large tree-lighting ceremony, live nativity, and horse drawn carriage rides could not happen because of social distancing measures, TBPA President Mark Monsey still called the event a huge success.
“We had to dig deep into our brains to plan this year’s event,” Monsey said. “But to see across the street with Santa and the reindeer, along with ice carvings that were beautiful, the businesses were all receptive and participating.”
Monsey added, “Even in the hard times of today, you can’t crush people’s holiday spirits.”
“The people who were here today showed that people want to be out and celebrate the holidays,” Monsey said. “It’s a lot different, but still a very happy thing to see.”
A former volunteer assistant junior high football coach at Lackawanna Trail pleaded guilty last Friday to endangering the welfare of children in a case dating back to 2017.
Thomas Michael Ward, 33, of Factoryville, appeared virtually before President Judge Russell Shurtleff in the Wyoming County Court of Common Pleas.
According to a complaint filed by the state police three years ago, four males ages 13 and 14 said the former coach held them in a choke hold at different times during the early part of the season, and others alleged he scratched players with a key or key card to sometimes get their attention.
State police initially filed six misdemeanor counts of child endangerment against Ward, and four misdemeanor counts of harassment. Under a plea agreement with Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell’s office, Ward entered a plea to a lone count of child endangerment.
Judge Shurtleff said the charge carries a maximum term of five years in jail and $10,000 in fines. Ward is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 13.
Other guilty pleas entered virtually in Wyoming County on Friday:
Derrick Lambar Anderson, 25, of Hop Bottom, pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia on May 26.
Donica McGee was elected president of the Elk Lake and the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center boards Thursday night in a virtual meeting.
McGee replaces Arden Tewksbury at the helm, while he continues as the state’s longest serving school board member — since 1961. Superintendent Ken Cuomo thanked Tewksbury for his ability to lead the group in this challenging year.
During the meeting, the board heard from elementary school principal Marc Weisgold who announced that first trimester report cards would be available on Tuesday, Dec. 8, in hard copy for K-2 and in the district portal for grades 3-6.
High school principal John Warnero said second marking period progress reports are also in the portal, and encouraged all members of the Elk Lake community to sign up for the district’s OneCall notification system.
“If a parent is online, checking progress reports, just head over to the OneCall tab, under Parent News on the website, and register while there,” he offered.
The special education department reported that the enrollment numbers are down to 237 from 264 last year. Director Pam Staats attributed that to students moving out of the district and others choosing virtual learning options.
High school vice principal Peter Kolankowski announced that the winter sports season would begin practicing the next day (Dec. 4) and assured the Elk Lake community as a whole that the athletes and coaches have been adhering to safety protocols.
Cuomo added more information about the winter sport seasons, as he was a participant in a virtual joint superintendent meeting of all Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association teams.
“We reached an agreement to move forward,” he explained. “We delayed the start of competitions until Jan. 4. The LIAA gave us a directive to have our athletic directors come up with several schedule possibilities- one for as much of a full schedule as possible; one for a shortened season if needed; and a possible third option of county competition only. Everything is based in the unknown, we are looking to move winter sports forward.”
He continued, “The County (basketball) Tournament will be postponed, as I spoke with all teams involved.”
Cuomo added that this was Elk Lake’s year to host the rotating tournament that features both boys and girls teams from Elk Lake, Montrose, Blue Ridge and Susquehanna. He also touched upon the possibility that the tournament might conclude the season.
“As long as school is open and not shut down by the Department of Health, we will move forward with winter practices and competitions,” said Cuomo. “If, for some reason, we are closed due to staffing reasons, athletics will continue. The only exception will be if the DOH requires us to shut down. Then the sports will be stopped for the length of the shutdown.”
He also requested a joint board meeting be added Dec. 17 “because of the rapidly changing situation in regards to COVID-19 and the DOH’s recommendations and guidelines, along with the CDC, which seem to be changing daily.”
The superintendent cited the recent change in quarantining times as an example.
“Especially before Christmas break, we need to be as up to date as possible on all current regulations,” he clarified.
The meeting is scheduled to be an in-person gathering, that possibly could go virtual if needed, and could be cancelled if nothing is deemed imperative for discussion.
“Who knows what will happen between now and the next two weeks,” Cuomo said. “We have been blessed to be open as long as we have at this point. We enjoy having the kids in the building, and that is what we are all about.”
Related to in-person education, board member Chuck Place began a discussion about maintaining a 4-day school week during weeks involving a holiday, or day off. The matter was tabled as it wasn’t a part of the published agenda.
Place also asked, on behalf of the school bus drivers, when it might be considered by the board to be back to a full, five day a week schedule.
“At this point, we will be grateful to be in school four days a week, especially after the holiday break,” offered Cuomo. “The government has passed legislation and we are waiting for the details of how to implement that (legislation) to compensate the contractors to the greatest extent feasible for days we are closed.”
He added, “There are 30 days for the state to come out with their deductions and calculations on contracts.”
“There are some things we can control, and some we can’t,” he concluded.
The Elk Lake and CTC boards also:
Lackawanna Trail School Board elected Kevin Mulhern as board president Monday night in a virtual meeting. He succeeded David Thorne who was elected secretary. Robert Minnick was elected vice president, and he succeeded Phil Stark.
The board voted 7-2 to renew Superintendent Matthew Rakauskas’s contract for July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2026 at a salary of $125,198 per year with a pay freeze in the first year and a 1 and one-half percent raise each subsequent year of the contract. Board members Deborah Naylor and Brian Petula voted against renewing the contract.
Trail High School Principal Mark Murphy announced that there are two positive COVID-19 cases at the school, and that classes will be completely virtual until Friday, Dec. 11, with in-class contact resuming on Monday, Dec. 14.
Murphy said that the two cases are unrelated to each other, and that neither person was infected as a result of being inside the school. He added that a deep cleaning of the building would take place this week and that contact tracing has been done.
“Face-to-face learning is not dangerous,” Murphy said. “There has been no evidence that the virus has spread as a result of being in school, because of that we are going to do everything we can to remain open.”
The board also approved a revised COVID-19 travel policy for students and staff. The policy essentially follows the State Department of Health’s guidance regarding travelling out of state. If a person travels out of state, they must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, or quarantine for 14 days before returning to school.
Board member Joe Ross said that while this motion is necessary, enforcing it will be next to impossible because no one is required to tell administrators if you leave the state.
“We have seen the virus numbers go up after Thanksgiving because people aren’t following the rules,” Ross said. “Christmas and New Year’s are coming up and I am very concerned about a skyrocket in cases after that. People are still going to go party and see their families, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Rakaukas said that most families have been very forthcoming about when they have to leave the state for any reason, and he trusts that the Trail community will make the right choices when it comes to keeping everyone safe.
The board voted to delay the start of the winter sports season until Jan. 4, 2021. Voluntary workouts, conditioning, and open gyms can continue Dec. 14-20 as workouts are paused this week because of the closure of the high school. Official practices for winter sports may begin on Dec. 21, dependent on local conditions related to COVID-19 data.
The board approved the following hires:
The board also approved the purchase of 50 Dell Chromebooks from the assigned fund balance at a cost of $14,706, and My Math and Glencoe Math consumables from Smethport Area School District at a cost of $6,000.
Rakauskas said that January is School Board Appreciation Month and that the district still wants to be able to celebrate virtually. The district plans to celebrate the month at its Jan. 11 board meeting with recognition from administrators and students.
The Lackawanna Trail School Board will next meet for a work session on Monday, Jan. 4.