Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg’s Facebook Live event focused on school, state issues

A screen shot of Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, left, along with school district Acting Superintendent Chris Celmer and Chief Academic Officer Susan Sneath.

While Harrisburg students are not in school due to the coronavirus pandemic, district officials today made it clear that they are working on continuing education outside the classroom.

“This is not a weeklong blizzard, this is not a Christmas vacation,” said Susan Sneath, chief academic officer for the Harrisburg school district. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Through a Facebook Live event on Friday, Sneath and Acting Superintendent Chris Celmer sat down with Mayor Eric Papenfuse to discuss developments within the school district in light of the COVID-19 health crisis.

District teachers reached out to about 5,000 Harrisburg students and families and discovered that over 95 percent had access to television, Celmer said.

With that in mind, Sneath announced a new partnership with WITF, the Harrisburg area’s public broadcasting station, to link the district’s current curriculum with the station’s resources. This allows for television programming catered to all grades, K-12.

“When you can work with such an expert partner like WITF, who already has tried-and-true educational programming in place, maybe we can do something together,” Sneath said.

Papenfuse added there have been discussions with the district to use the city’s TV station, Channel 20, as a tool, as well. Sneath mentioned the possibility of having teachers broadcast lessons through the channel.

“If we are going to stay closed, we would like to take the opportunity to customize what we broadcast as much as humanly possible to truly meet the direct needs of our students,” Sneath said.

While the district is officially closed until April 9 with a return date for students of April 14, Papenfuse acknowledged that it likely could be longer. Wolf signed a bill this week that waives the 180-day requirement for school to be in session.

To support students during the crisis, Celmer announced a teacher parade for Monday at 4 p.m. Students and families are encouraged to watch from their porches as Harrisburg educators drive through the streets.

Also on Friday, Harrisburg city held another “Community Conversation” via Facebook Live. In it, Papenfuse spoke with state Rep. Patty Kim and Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries.

Kim brought to attention a few other bills passed on Friday regarding the COVID-19 crisis. They include additional funds for medical equipment in the state and a postponed Pennsylvania primary election date.

Wolf added two more central Pennsylvania counties to the “stay-at-home order” and, while Dauphin County remains off the list, Kim sees it as a looming possibility.

“I think we should all follow the same shelter-in-place order,” she said. “I’m sure the shelter-in-place will happen eventually, but why not practice it now to slow the spread?”

The following are a list of resources mentioned by the city from today’s event:

Click here to watch the full Facebook Live event with Harrisburg school district officials.

Click here to watch the full Facebook Live event with state Rep. Patty Kim and Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries.

Harrisburg plans to continue Facebook Live events each Friday at noon during the COVID-19 health emergency.

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