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Visitors see history

While the Free Museum Day, sponsored by the Huntingdon County Heritage & Roundtable Committee, didn’t draw as many people to area museums as it did last year, it did show that those who attended are very much interested in learning about Huntingdon County History.

People had opportunities to attend local museums and historical societies throughout the entire county, including Bricktown Museum, Mount Union; Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum, Robertsdale; East Broad Top Railroad, Rockhill; Friends of the East Broad Top Museum, Robertsdale; Greenwood Furnace State Park Blacksmith Shop, in northeastern Huntingdon County; Hartslog Heritage Museum, Alexandria; Huntingdon County Fair Farm Museum, Huntingdon.; Isett Heritage Museum, Huntingdon; Mapleton Union Area Historical Society; Mount Union Area Historical Society; Rockhill Trolley Museum, ; and Swigart Museum, Route 22, Huntingdon.

Lonnie Smith Jr., chair of the committee, noted that not as many people attended, but the reasons why there were fewer people who attended, ranging from concerns regarding the rising COVID cases to not enough advertising.

“One comment I received was we needed to advertise more, especially the week of, so people remember it’s happening,” he said. “Last year, we required pre-registration and had a great response. This year, we had it available, but it wasn’t required, other than for the Rockhill Trolley Museum, as they had a wedding there that afternoon, so maybe we go back to pre-registering.”

He said this is definitely going to be a discussion at the next roundtable meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Huntingdon County Historical Society exhibit galary.

Despite this year’s challenges, Smith said he was encouraged that people took the time to see the many aspects of Huntingdon County history.

“Not every place open on Saturday got visitors, but for those who did, it shows that there are some people interested and wanted to check out what great displays, exhibits, artifacts and history these places hold,” said Smith.

One person was Philip Magaldi of Gettysburg, who was visiting Isett Heritage Museum with his wife, Peggy, Saturday.

“This should be a place that’s on state maps for tourism,” he said. “I know Swigart Museum is, but this place is a blessing for all people who come here.

He found out about Isett through someone who has connections with people who live in Neelyton, though the person he was talking about now lives in Rochester, New York.

“We were supposed to come a couple of weeks ago, but we were unable to get everyone together to come,” said Magaldi. “So, we decided to come (this past weekend), and it was meant to be.”

At Swigart Automobile Museum, Tammy and Bill Kurtz of Belleville thought it would be a great opportunity to take their 5-year-old grandson, Jasper Benn, to the museum.

“(Jasper) loves Herbie, so we thought it would be great to come here,” said Bill. “But, we didn’t know that it was going to be free today, so it was a nice surprise to come here.”

HASB members vote to keep masks

Despite outcry during Monday’s Huntingdon Area School Board meeting, masks are still required for students in the district.

In a 7-1 vote, the board voted to retroactively approve the district’s health and safety plan that calls for universal masking. Board member Brittany Rutter cast the lone “no” vote. Board president Dr. Ronald Long was not in attendance.

Among the crowd against mandatory masking was Kenny Sowers who said that the district has no right to decide what people do.

“That individual’s body solely belongs to that individual,” he said. “The individual is the one who is able to determine what is on or within them.”

Sowers requested extra time for his speech that he had prepared. Though cut off at 3minutes, he was allowed to continue once everyone had a chance to speak.

Another parent who spoke against the masks was Jessica Grove, who has two children who attend Southside Elementary.

“These masks are about power, not protection,” she said.

As a surgical technician, she said the masks worn by students were not effective like the ones used in hospitals.

“Kids are getting sick anyways,” she said. “It should be a choice.”

Sherry Kincel said wearing masks should be up to the parents.

“If it’s my kid, it is my choice,” she said. “It is time to let parents decide.”

Melissa Long, president of the booster club, mentioned an incident that occurred in the food booth during the Sept. 17 football game.

“None of the workers in our booth wore a mask either because of the heat or because they did not want to,” she said. “We were shut down because of that.”

She said they should not be forced to listen to the mask mandate because they are not a club run through the district.

“I’m afraid this will keep us from having a food booth, spaghetti dinners or snacks we give to the athletes.”

Masking is mandated by the state and districts are required to follow the mandate, but Sowers argued the school board does not work for the state Department of Health, but for the taxpayers and the children.

“It is your responsibility to give our children a free and public learning experience,” he said. “Stop placing your thoughts over our rights.”

Bethany Burns was the only parent to speak in favor of the masks.

“Huntingdon is at such a high risk right now,” she said. “Our children aren’t going to be seen and heard if they are learning from home.”

She said reports are showing that Huntingdon County has an average of 24 COVID-19 cases per day.

“We face the same problem as last year if we don’t keep masks,” she said.

Emily can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

The Isett Community Pool in Huntingdon welcomed canine swimmers to a first-ever splash party Sunday afternoon. The event, which attracted various breeds of pooch and from as far away as Cumberland, Maryland, was hosted by the pool’s staff. General manager Mary Ann Buckley said they considered the event for a few years before taking the plunge. “We get to enjoy the water, why not dogs?” Buckley said. Above, Jenna Mazurowski, center, assisted mini Labradoodle Cooper with a dip in the pool.

Day of Caring to return

Huntingdon County United Way is kicking off its 2021-2022 fundraising campaign Wednesday with its annual Day of Caring.

The event is making a comeback after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Huntingdon County United Way executive director Cindy Brown said the pandemic has also caused a greater need for donations than ever.

The slogan for this year’s campaign is “Give from the heart because our community needs us,” according to Brown. The slogan was selected by this year’s campaign chairs Jo Anna Swope, Jerry Rucker, Lauren Wilson and Jeff Hayes.

Brown says that as the safety net measures of the American Rescue Plan act expire, there are many in the community who will be in need of assistance.

“People are going to find themselves in very dire straits. So, we’re expecting to have an influx of need in our community, more than we’ve seen in a long time, and all the agencies are braced for that,” she said. “So we ask that if you are fortunate enough to have not been heavily impacted by this pandemic that you will give from your heart.”

United Way will announce the fundraising goal for this year’s campaign at the start of the Day of Caring. The event is also an opportunity for volunteers to help out, and clean up many of Huntingdon County’s public spaces. Brown says she’s excited to have the more than 300 volunteers assisting in their communities once again after the event was canceled last year.

“We’re just excited that we’re going to have one this year,” said Brown. “We have lots of folks reaching out to help us.”

Representatives from businesses, faith group, and schools from all over the cCounty typically gather together for the event. Volunteers will meet at Detwiler Memorial Field in Huntingdon for a quick breakfast and photo opportunity before heading out to their assigned projects. Volunteers often clean up and beautify parks and trails, as well as helping out for some private projects that are requested by community members in need of help. Brown says that they are unable to accommodate last-minute volunteers due to the large amount of coordination it takes to make the day a success. Interested parties can look forward to registering for the event when it comes again next fall.

The Day of Caring is an annual event held by United Way chapters all over the country.

Brown says that she’d also like to thank their many sponsors that make this day possible. They are: Arize Federal Credit Union, Jim’s Anchorage, UGI Energy, Trinity Reformed UCC of McConnellstown, Huntingdon Offset Printing, Mutual Benefit Group, Huntingdon Moose Lodge 223, ACCO Brands, Simply Bess Cleaning, Sunset Golf Club, Community State Bank, Fleck Excavating, Family Eye and Vision Care, First National Bank, E.B. Endres Inc., Showalter Landscaping, McGee’s Used Cars Inc., Northwest Bank, Diversified Investment Solutions, Watson & Black American Legion Post 126, McDonald’s of Huntingdon, and Mount Union, Brady Township, Huntingdon Savings Bank, Skip’s Hometown Store, J. Porter Enterprises, Martin Oil Co., Marks Bros Holdings, Pleasant Hills Campground, Huntingdon County Board of Realtors, the Law Offices of Roberta Binder Heath, Bello’s Café, Burger King, Best Way Pizza, OIP downtown, Wendy’s, Brenneman’s Meat Market and OIP Route 22.

Haldan can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

HCBI members discuss worker shortages

The search for employees continues to be a struggle within the county.

That was the message shared during the Huntingdon County Business and Industry monthly meeting Monday.

A survey sent by the Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce found that the hospitality field is facing the biggest struggle when it comes to worker shortages.

When asked if Huntingdon County restaurants are struggling, Christa McGeary of Startup Alleghenies said it is a big issue.

“Many of our businesses have had to close early or not open at all because they don’t have the employees,” she said.

HCBI director Debra Clark said the shortage is not just affecting small businesses.

“I was in Sheetz the other day and you could not even get fried food,” she said. “They had not gotten their delivery.”

Aside from restaurants unable to hire staff, there has been a shortage of factory workers and delivery drivers.

“The increase in food costs is also insane,” said McGeary.

Nationwide, restaurants are down 8% in staff compared to their pre-pandemic numbers.

Clark said she is currently working on an application with PA CareerLink and Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center for an industry partnership grant. This would require businesses to collaborate to promote initiative, recruitment and career awareness.

“We are hoping that this will help with the shortages if we are able to get the grant,” she said.

Those looking for a job have some upcoming opportunities. There will be a CareerLink job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7 at the Smithfield Fire Hall.

CareerLink director Barbara Covert said there are currently 41 different employers signed up, but more are urged to reserve a free spot.

She also said that those looking for a job should come to the CareerLink center.

“We have a lot of things set up to help,” she said. “But we are not seeing the amount of traffic we had hoped for.”

If those interested in coming do not have good computer knowledge, they are asked to bring someone who does as an aid to make the process simpler.

The county also has open positions, according to county commissioner Scott Walls.

“We have some custodial and recyclables coordinator positions open,” he said.

Despite much promotion, Walls said they have not been able to find anyone to fill these positions.

During the meeting, the committee agreed to elect current board officers to another term. Melissa Cisney-Foster and Jay Muir will be departing from their board seats. Tracey Cook of Mutual Benefit Group and Gwen Borger of Bonney Forge will join the board.

The next HCBI meeting will take place at 11:45 a.m. Monday, Oct. 18, via Zoom.

Emily can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

TMSD chief to develop safety plan

Meeting in its monthly voting session Monday evening in the high school administrative suite, the Tussey Mountain School Board passed a resolution giving district superintendent Dr. Jerry Shoemake the authority to develop a health and safety plan the district will observe during the current COVID-19 threat.

The resolution is in response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 contagion which the World Health Organization has declared “a global pandemic” as well as the state Department of Education which has determined the pandemic constitutes an “emergency” as outlined in the public school code.

Because of the risks associated with the sickness to students and district staffers, the Tussey school board has determined that an “extraordinary response” is needed.

Briefly stated, the resolution gives Shoemake the authority to develop a health and safety plan, in accordance with the state Department of Education that ensures a minimum of 180 days of instruction, allowing for a minimum of 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours of instruction at the secondary level.

Shoemake will have the authority to employ any combination of in-person, virtual and distance learning he feels is appropriate as a means of “addressing the health and safety of students, faculty, community and the learning needs of the students.”

The response to the pandemic threat will be enforced during the duration of the pandemic “but in no event for any period exceeding four years.”

In addition, the instruction must comply “in full” with Chapter 4 of the regulations of the State Board of Education and with the curriculum standards.”

The vote was unanimous with the following board members agreeing, Roy McCabe, Amy Melius, Josh Wakefield, Brad Sheeder, John Baughman and board president Harry Watkins. Not present for the vote were board members Brenda Folk, Adam Baker and Chad Myers.

At last week’s board workshop numerous parents and others turned out to voice their concerns over the controversial issue with a big emphasis on student mask-wearing and the potential for further restrictions governing testing and vaccine mandates.

Sept. 7 the mask requirement went into effect as issued by Gov. Tom Wolf with the declaration involving K-12 school students, faculty and support staff personnel and visitors.

School district solicitor Carl Beard told the citizens that the board has its hands tied and faced serious consequences if the it does not enforce the mandate.

He added that the mask mandate is being litigated in Commonwealth Court which could result in changes, adding that many attorneys are not prosecuting cases regarding cases involving mask mandates. He also spoke of liability concerns school boards face by not enforcing the state mandate.

Several schools and parents across the state have already displayed defiance against the directive which many parents suggest violates their civil liberties and interferes with students’ ability to achieve a meaningful education in the classroom.

Aware of the public’s opposition to the mandate, the school district superintendent outlined the procedures and protocols Tussey must adhere to during last week’s public comment session.

In a related matter, the board authorized the administration to adjust the 2021-22 school calendar as needed throughout the year “as necessary” due to the COVID-19 pandemic threat.

Turning to other matters, the board approved an upgrade of the district’s HVAC control system at a cost of $5,375, a quote submitted by Combustion Services & Equipment Co.

The board agreed to continue the use of the Community State Bank and the Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust (PLGIT) as district depositories. A lone no vote was casted by Melius.

Under personnel matters, the board agreed to:

--add Mary Hinkle, Justine Heath and Stefanie Straley to the district substitute support staff.

--accepted with regret the resignations of after school aide Kathryn Angelo (she will be kept on the substitute list) and athletic/high school office secretary Pamela Morningstar, effective Jan. 4, 2022.

--acknowledge a list of bus drivers for the 2020-21 school year for Figard/Stevenson Bussing, Snyder Bussing and Maxwell Transportation.

--approved a list of volunteers and Class of 2027 advisers.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.