Businesses near West Chester University bracing for spring with no students

Thursday, October 8, 2020
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West Chester University says remote learning, with some hybrid in-person classes, will continue into 2021. Nearby businesses say they are hurting big time.

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Most students will not be returning to West Chester University in the spring. The school announced Wednesday that remote learning, with some hybrid in-person classes, will continue into 2021.

Officials say the decision was made after recent COVID-19 spikes in many states. They also pointed to the possible lack of rapid tests in making their decision.

"Additionally, there is not enough information on the availability of rapid testing or a vaccine on a sufficient scale for us to be confident enough to announce and plan for a spring semester that includes a return to in-person instruction," said West Chester University President Dr. Christopher Fiorentino in a letter to the community.

The school will announce more details about the schedule later this month.

Businesses near the university say they are hurting.

"I used to open 24 hours. I used to make good business because of the college kids," said Ragab Meky, owner of Rams Diner.

He says since the start of the virus, and the school went all virtual, he's not only cut hours but downsized staff from 25 to just 7.

Now that the school has announced mostly remote learning will continue through the spring semester, he doesn't know what will happen. He says he's lost at least 50% of his business.

President Fiorentino says understands the impact this has on local businesses and their students.

"I can tell you I take no joy in making this decision but our primary objective is the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff," he said.

READ MORE: West Chester, Pa. declares state of emergency after spike in COVID-19 cases

The university's announcement comes as the Borough of West Chester, Pennsylvania tries to get a handle on a spike in COVID-19 cases. Last week the borough declared a state of emergency.

"The purpose is to improve our government's ability to manage novel coronavirus transmission in our community," Mayor Dianne Herrin said in a statement.

Among those tested, 18 to 22 years olds were the majority of positive cases in the community, according to numbers from the borough.

The borough is home to West Chester University, though the college was not mentioned specifically in the declaration.