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Teaser for 3-26-20


Coronavirus
Clearfield County has second COVID-19 confirmation; statewide total at 1,127

HARRISBURG — Clearfield County now has two confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

As of 12 a.m. Wednesday, there were 276 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,127 in 44 counties. Clearfield County now has two of those cases.

The department also reported four new deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 11. All confirmed cases are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.

“Our notable increase in cases over the past few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: Stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home.”

Statewide, 1,127 cases of COVID-19 have been reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 11,193 patients who have tested negative, and 11 total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.

All non-life-sustaining businesses are ordered to be closed and schools are closed statewide at least through April 6.


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Local
featured
P-O to move fifth grade to elementary level despite public concerns

PHILIPSBURG — More than 200 people logged on to their computers or participated via cell phone for Tuesday night’s Philipsburg-Osceola Area School Board meeting to discuss relocating the district’s fifth graders to the elementary schools.

The majority who participated in the 90-minute live stream meeting voiced concerns about the issue, but directors in a 6-3 vote made the fifth grade move official.

In November, Superintendent Dr. Gregg Paladina said he would consult with his administrative team, principals and parents on where fifth graders are best fit. It was then discussed in further detail at the March 10 board meeting as administrators gave a presentation. At that time, it was mentioned it was the first year the district had the numbers where they could make the move happen.

The proposal called for fifth grade students to return to the Osceola Mills and Philipsburg elementary schools, and middle school would then house grades 6-8.

Mostwho chose to speak felt the move was being pushed through rather quickly and that more research needed to be done. Other concerns raised included class sizes, empty classrooms, transportation, staffing and lunch schedules.

“This cannot be a decision made quickly or frivolously,” resident Jess Levonick said. “It seems ill-timed to consider such a major decision when students, classes and teachers have already been through great upheaval ... I don’t think at this time we should be creating more uncertainty for the following year.”

“If it’s not broken — which we all is certainly not — why are we fixing it?” resident Melissa Wood questioned.

Resident Cara Artiola said she would support whatever the board would decide and cited the district spoke to students and sent questionnaires.

“They’ve been talking about this over a year, it’s not something that was just decided in a month,” Artiola said. “And people are upset because it’s a change. Change is scary, but it can also be a good thing.”

Paladina said as far as class sizes, the fifth grade move has “no impact whatsoever on the class sizes” at both elementary buildings for any grade.

When it came time for the vote, board member Linda Bush said she “couldn’t grasp the rationale” of voting on the matter that evening.

“The U.S. is facing a crisis with the coronavirus and yet we are here tonight to push this through,” Bush said, adding the matter should wait until the spring or summer — or until public meetings are held again.

“If it passes then, so be it,” Bush said. “We can implement the change for the (2021-22) school year at that time if it passes.”

Bush said the focus should currently be on seniors and how they will graduate on time so they can perform summer jobs, leave for the service or go to to college.

Board member Rob Massung suggested a different proposal: Having grades K-2 at Osceola Mills, grades 3-5 at Philipsburg, grades 6-8 at the middle school and grades 9-12 at the high school. Massung said this would also get the fifth grade out of the middle school while also having other advantages.

“By having a unified school district, all grades would be under one building for the first time ever,” Massung said. “All the teachers would be in the same building and could collaborate with the curriculum and the programs. All of the field trips could be coordinated, too. I think it made sense on paper now and I could be convinced otherwise.”

Paladina said they have discussed Massung’s proposal before and he wouldn’t be opposed to that.

Board member Rob Miller said with more than 200 people in on the meeting, he feels that is reason enough to table the matter and do more research, especially after hearing Massung’s alternative proposal.

“I think it’s better to do it right than to do it wrong and have to go back and change it,” Miller said.

Board member Estelle Bowman asked what the costs would be to reunify the schools, and Massung said he didn’t have the answer currently.

Bowman asked if they approved the fifth grade move, could they then still look at Massung’s proposal.

“I think you could do both if you wanted to,” Paladina said.

Miller disagreed, saying he didn’t think you should make a change and then make yet another change.

“It should be discussed further,” Miller said. “We have options that we’re not even aware of now.”

However, with the motion still on the table to move fifth grade to both elementary schools, President Dana Droll asked for it to be seconded and it was made by Bowman. The board the approved the fifth grade move with Droll, Bowman, Jeffries, Nancy Lamb, Susan McGee and Ross Williams voting in favor. Voting against were Bush, Miller and Massung.


Crime
Arson suspect waives hearing

Dahr L. Dodge, 45, of Woodland who is accused burning down his uninsured home, waived his right to a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Jerome Nevling yesterday at Centralized Court held at the Clearfield County Jail.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, on Feb. 4 at approximately 6 p.m. fire fighters and emergency personnel were dispatched to 22 Goodrow Ln. in Bradford Township for a structure fire.

The fire department assumed the fire was accidental because the home was uninsured.

However, an investigation by state police Fire Marshall Greg Agosti determined there was a strong indication it was arson.

On March 3, Trooper Derek Southern interviewed Dodge at the Clearfield County Jail where he was incarcerated for another matter, and Dodge admitted to lighting a trash can on fire in the living room of his residence. He then went outside and waited for the fire department.

Dodge is charged with arson-danger of death or bodily injury, a felony of the first degree; failure to control/report dangerous fire, a misdemeanor of the first degree and recklessly endangering another person, a misdemeanor of the second degree.

Dodge was represented by attorney Chris Pentz of the public defender’s office; the commonwealth was represented by Assistant District Attorney Warren Mikesell II.


News
Commissioners call on residents to patronize local businesses

At a time when many residents feel helpless, Clearfield County Commissioners said they can assist in bolstering local businesses by patronizing them.

Commissioner John Sobel on Tuesday reported he’d had a call from the owner of a local business prior to the meeting.

“A lot of small businesses in the county are very concerned.”

Sobel went on to say many county businesses have had to close because they are considered non-essential or have reduced staff, hours and services to comply with mandates to reduce the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.

“We want residents to be careful and follow the directives but if possible please support local businesses,” Sobel said, adding he knows many residents are concerned about going out but said county businesses are struggling and need help.

“If residents really feel the need to stay away we certainly understand, but eventually the restrictions will be lifted and when they are let’s swamp our local businesses with our business. They are going to need our help to get back on their feet,” Sobel said.

The commissioners also said if local businesses need assistance, the county is ready to lend a hand.

“If a business is looking for a bridge to assist with finances during this time, contact the county and the commissioners will do whatever we can to get information to you,” Sobel said.


Crime
Houtzdale man accused of molesting teen waives hearing

Stephen Andrew Hansel, 61, of Houtzdale, who is accused of molesting a teenager, waived his right to a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Magisterial District Judge James Glass yesterday at Centralized Court held at the Clearfield County Jail.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, between the summer of 2018 and August of 2019, the victim reported Hansel molested her on several occasions when she was 15-16 years old. The incidents allegedly occurred inside a barn along Verns Road in Furguson Township.

On March 19, Hansel was interviewed at the Clearfield state police barracks by Trooper Dave Patrick. During the interview Hansel admitted to the crimes.

Hansel is charged with three counts each of statutory sexual assault-11 years older, and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse-forcible compulsion, all of which are felonies of the first degree; four counts of aggravated indecent assault, felonies of the second degree; seven counts of corruption of minors, felonies of the third degree; four counts of indecent assault-without consent, and indecent assault-victim less than 16-years old, all of which are misdemeanors of the seond degree.

On March 19, Hansel was incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $75,000 monetary bail; yesterday, his bail was reduced to $75,000 unsecured and he was released.

Hansel was represented by attorney Chris Pentz of Clearfield; the commonwealth was represented by First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza.