Central Elementary first-graders

Rebecca Caudill reads a book to her first-grade class Tuesday on the first day of school at Central Elementary in Franklin.

Following last year’s COVID-related uncertainty, Tuesday started off as a normal first day of school for local students who were excited to see their classmates and teachers.

But the immediate future became a little less certain later in the day as word arrived about Gov. Tom Wolf’s order requiring masks to be worn in schools starting next week.

Three Venango County superintendents spoke to the newspaper on Tuesday, and while Wolf’s mask mandate was on their minds at the end of the day, they were all pleased with how the first day went.

At Oil City, Superintendent Lynda Weller said Tuesday went well as teachers and students were glad to be back in the classroom.

“I touched base with all four principals today and they had a variety of positive words to describe the day — wonderful, fabulous, excellent and great,” Weller said.

She added that “the first day school is always one of the best days of the year. Every year the kids come back bubbling with excitement in their special first day of school outfits. It was a day just like that.”

Weller said that because of Wolf’s order, masks will be required for everyone who enters any Oil City school buildings beginning Tuesday.

Until the order takes effect, the district will continue to abide by the guidelines Oil City School Board members have approved, Weller said.

The guidelines that will be in place the rest of the week state that at elementary schools masks will be mandated if there are 3 or more students/staff in a grade level who have tested positive for COVID in a 14-day rolling window.

The other grade levels in the building aren’t mandated to wear masks but masks will be mandated if there are 5 or more students/staff in the entire building who have tested positive for COVID in a 14-day rolling window, the district’s website says.

At the middle school and high school for the rest of the week, masks will be mandated if there are 5 or more students/staff in the entire building who have tested positive for COVID in a 14-day rolling window, the website says.

The district will follow those guidelines and also monitor the county’s level of virus transmission whether or not state orders are in effect, Weller said. She added that school officials were told the state will reevaluate the mask order at the beginning of October.

“It’s a nice safety net and protective measure to keep our staff and students safe,” Weller said of the school board’s policy.

Weller said the district will provide more information to parents over the next few days via the district’s social media and website.

Franklin

Franklin Area School District had a successful first day of school that kept fears of a return to logistical failures at bay.

“You always fear when kids return to school organizationally wise if you are ready, and I think we were ready,” Superintendent Mark Loucks said.

Loucks said it stood out to him how excited the kids were to be back in the school buildings.

“We weren’t sure with the current climate how excited they would be to be back,” he said.

A few hiccups with bus routes and other small organizational issues cropped up during the day, but Loucks said families have been supportive as they work out the kinks.

“Our teachers spent the past three days getting ready and they were more than prepared for this day,” Loucks said.

Sighs of relief for pulling off a successful return to schooling were replaced by bated breaths after the statewide school mask mandate was announced.

“Last fall we were able to come back uninterrupted until November 4th, and that’s when Venango County and the rest of the schools started to see the wheels fall off, so we were prepared this year to get as much upfront learning as possible in the event that something like that were to happen again,” Loucks said. “But we hit the ground running today,” he added.

“Unfortunately it looks like it is going to happen sooner rather than later in terms of restrictions,” Loucks said.

The superintendent said Wolf’s announcement Tuesday raises concerns that the district will have to scale back on programming that had been pre-planned and already approved.

“As you move forward you always hold your breath, cross your fingers and carry your rabbit’s foot,” he added.

The superintendent took comfort in that he could rely on continued cooperation with other school districts as COVID-19 continues to affect the classroom.

“We’re really lucky in Venango County that we have a great set of superintendents who stick together,” Loucks said. “So whatever comes out of this mask mandate or this mask legislation, I think we will come up with some plans and see it through.”

Franklin has more than 1,600 students registered for the 2021-22 school year, according to Loucks.

Valley Grove

Valley Grove School District had a good day seeing students return to the elementary and high school.

“Nice to see the kids back in the building, smiling. There’s a relief to parents getting back to that normal school experience that we missed last year,” said Superintendent Kevin Briggs.

As the district’s more than 800 students descended upon the school buildings, Briggs said only standard issues arose.

“We had your typical first day of school adjustments that you make as you go,” he said.

However, Briggs said there was a noticeable shift in the day after the mask mandate was announced.

“It was a positive day, but toward the afternoon the conversation did change to the new mask mandate from the state,” Briggs said.

The superintendent said Valley Grove will likely start sending information regarding masks to parents today.

Briggs said this late-breaking and sudden shift in the district’s plans after the state’s announcement is frustrating.

“That happened several times over the course of the pandemic, we get our plans together and then we have to react,” Briggs said.

But overall, Briggs said “we’re excited to be back.”

Efforts to contact Cranberry School District officials, including Superintendent Bill Vonada, were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

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Girls volleyball: Oil City 3, Franklin 1; Lakeview 3, Rocky Grove 2; Cranberry 3, Redbank Valley 2; Keystone 3, Venango Catholic 0; Clarion 3, Moniteau 0; Clarion-Limestone 3, North Clarion 0; Karns City 3, Union 0 Girls soccer: Meadville 9, Oil City 0; Fort LeBoeuf 9, Franklin 0

CLARION — It was Farmers and Crafters Day on Friday at the Autumn Leaf Festival, and Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry leader Tracy Becker said the day went well.

SCHOLASTIC FOOTBALL: Warren 21, Oil City 18; Meadville 77, Franklin 0; Grove City 42, Titusville 6; Central Clarion 33, Ridgway 14; Redbank Valley 49, Bucktail 6; DuBois 51, Moniteau 7; Karns City 41, Kane 12; Maplewood 16, Cambridge Springs 0; Mercer 20, Lakeview 6

SCHOLASTIC BOYS SOCCER: Oil City 6, Keystone 1; SCHOLASTIC GIRLS SOCCER: Corry 8, Franklin 4; Erie High 11, Oil City 0; SCHOLASTIC VOLLEYBALL: Franklin 3, Venango Catholic 0; Cranberry 3, Rocky Grove 0; Keystone 3, Oil City 0; Butler First Baptist 3, Christian Life Academy 1

Heading into Friday night’s Region 5 rivalry football game at Franklin High School, the Knights’ coaching staff knew the one thing their team needed to do to have any chance of beating Oil City was to stop star running back Ethen Knox from having a big impact on the matchup.

Football: Oil City 54, Franklin 8; Central Clarion 34, Kane 26; Redbank Valley 27, Smethport 6; Union/A-C Valley 41, Port Allegany 8; Brookville 39, Moniteau 6; St. Marys 35, Karns City 28; Grove City 32, Sharon 13; Hickory 56, Titusville 7; Maplewood 30, Seneca 8; Cochranton 14, Cambridge S…

Union High School will dismiss students at 11 a.m. today due to "several positive cases of Covid which have resulted in quarantining of staff members necessary in performing key functions," according to Superintendent John Kimmel. The high school will be operating remotely Monday, Tuesday, a…

Girls volleyball: Franklin 3, Slippery Rock 1; Hickory 3, Oil City 0; Rocky Grove 3, Jamestown 0; Clarion 3, Karns City 0; A-C Valley 3, Redbank Valley 1; C-L 3, Keystone 1; CLA 3, Chautauqua Christian 1 Girls soccer: Warren 10, Oil City 1; Harbor Creek 8, Franklin 0 Girls tennis: Wilmington…

As September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, draws to a close, several parents who have lost their children to cancer are on a mission to see that their kids aren’t forgotten and to raise awareness for childhood cancer all year long.

SCHOLASTIC BOYS SOCCER: Franklin 6, Titusville 1; North East 18, Oil City 1; SCHOLASTIC GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Clarion-Limestone 3, Franklin 0; Moniteau 3, North Clarion 0; SCHOLASTIC GIRLS TENNIS: (Doubleheader) Match #1 Oil City 5, Kennedy Catholic 0; Match #2 Oil City 5, Kennedy Catholic 0

Girls volleyball: Maplewood 3, Oil City 0; Sharpsville 3, Franklin 0; Rocky Grove 3, Mercer 0; Cranberry 3, Keystone 1; Clarion 3, C-L 0; A-C Valley 3, Moniteau 1; CLA 3, CCSI 0 Girls soccer: Meadville 0, Oil City 0; Fort LeBoeuf 13, Franklin 0 Girls Tennis: Sharon 4, Oil City 1

Girls volleyball: Union 3, Oil City 2; Franklin 3, Cranberry 2; Venango Catholic 3, Forest Area 0; Keystone 3, Redbank Valley 1 Boys soccer: Oil City 4, Corry 2; Franklin 3, Fort LeBoeuf 2 Girls tennis: Punxsutawney 4, Oil City 3

The southbound lanes of Route 8 are open from the intersection with Old Route 8 (Route 3013) to the Georgetown Road (Route 3004) exit, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

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Two people died in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 80 early Monday morning, during which time their vehicle caught fire, according to Clintonville Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Brayden Rea.

Interstate 80 exit 45, eastbound (Route 478: St. Petersburg/Emlenton) is closed for concrete patching. The estimated time to reopen is 6 p.m., according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

HARRISBURG —The state Department of Health today announced a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be immediately available for certain adults who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.

Nancy Hunt, of Pleasantville, and Ed Atts, of Utica, won the Wildlife Photography contest. Their photos were selected from 155 submissions. Both winners received a $50 Dunham’s Sports gift card. To view all of the photos entered, visit The Derrick’s Facebook page or www.thederrick.com/gallery.

Chaplain Sandy Lewis, chaplain of Sandycreek Volunteer Fire Department, led the inaugural Firefighter Memorial and Honor Service Sunday afternoon.

After three quarters of forgettable football, Oil City came alive when it mattered most — and on Homecoming, no less — as the Oilers scored all of their points in the fourth quarter en route to a 14-13 victory over Harbor Creek in a Region 5 thriller at the Oil Field on Friday night.

SCHOLASTIC FOOTBALL: Franklin 23, Conneaut Area 16; Oil City 14, Harbor Creek 13; St. Marys 42, Central Clarion 39; Keystone 29, Bucktail 12; Redbank Valley 51, Brockway 0; Union/Allegheny-Clarion Valley 41, Elk County Catholic 0; Moniteau 44, Bradford 38; Karns City 41, Brookville 7; Grove …

DeBence Antique Music World will have free admission over Applefest weekend, showcasing several new developments at the museum.

SCHOLASTIC FOOTBALL: Brookville 40, Central Clarion 14; Slippery Rock 34, Grove City 7; Sharon 23, Oil City 0; Union/Allegheny-Clarion Valley 42, Otto-Eldred 0; Karns City 44, Moniteau 6; Cochranton 34, Eisenhower 13

Girls volleyball: Sharpsville 3, Oil City 0; Union 3, Cranberry 0; C-L 3, Venango Catholic 0; Keystone 3, Karns City 0; CLA 3, Victory Christian 2 Girls soccer: Warren 13, Oil City 0; Harbor Creek 6, Franklin 1 Girls tennis: Oil City 4, Greenville 1