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UPDATE -- The Marion Center Area School District reported on social media at 2:30 p.m. that it has called off the football game against Homer-Center scheduled this evening at Mallino Field.

The game is being postponed, "due to the number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases within the opposing teams community," the Marion Center district announced. "Our community's health and safety is our utmost priority. We do apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment that this may cause our team and spectators."


CENTER TOWNSHIP — Homer-Center High School will close for a week for sanitizing, and students will spend the week taking classes online due to an increase in diagnosed COVID-19 cases.

District Superintendent Curt Whitesel said the number of students with confirmed novel coronavirus infections reached a threshold of five, which triggers a one-week building closing.

The shift to virtual learning will have no effect on after-school activities, including the football team’s game scheduled this evening against Marion Center High School.

“We will continue extra-curriculars as long as we do not have any issues,” Whitesel said. “The game tonight is still on.”

With two weekends wrapped around the closing, Whitesel said, the staff will have nine days to clean the high school and students will have extra time to recover and head off the spread of the virus.

“This gives us a chance to do a deep and thorough cleaning of the high school, in all areas,” Whitesel said. He said the disinfecting process would involve a “fogging” of the building.

“This will give the kids a chance to be apart for nine days to be sure we’re not transmitting anything, so we can get everyone back here on Oct. 5.”

The district’s public dashboard today shows four confirmed cases, all students, at the high school. Two were diagnosed Sept. 18, another on Sept. 19 and one on Tuesday.

Not shown on the website are two high school teachers and approximately 40 students — about 10 percent of the student body — who have been ordered to quarantine at home because they were exposed to others with symptoms of COVID-19.

“As long as we keep the positive cases under five and get the majority of our kids through quarantine, which should be through the middle and end of next week — as long as we don’t have any more cases next week, we should have a clean slate and be ready to reopen,” Whitesel said.

The students’ return to classes will be cushioned as a four-day week, with only the teachers reporting on Oct. 9, an Act 80 in-service day.

No cases are known among the students and staff at Homer-Center Elementary School, where students are taught in person in the building five days a week.

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the county courthouse; Indiana Area and Homer-Center schools; Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, Center and Burrell; and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.