Saturday, March 6, 2021

Bellefonte shares preliminary plans for 2020-21 school year

BELLEFONTE — After reviewing resources and recommendations from multiple health and educational organizations, Bellefonte Area School District introduced a preliminary plan for the upcoming school year.

The initial plan for the school year changes along with the state green, yellow and red reopening stages.

“These plans are based on the status of our region right now and are subject to change. Our task force will continue to refine our plans and will share more details in the near future,” said district interim Superintendent Tammie Burnaford in a letter to the district.

The task force of 50 administrators, professional staff, support staff and board members was created by the district in May and is responsible for making a series of plans heading into the upcoming school year, while following guidelines from the state.

The measures include a health and safety plan, followed by educational and instructional and social and emotional health plans, which must be approved by the school board, submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and posted publicly online.

“Bellefonte Area School District has been working to formulate plans for our return for the start of the 2020-21 school year. We have been reviewing the resources and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, Pennsylvania Department of Education, World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics to determine our course of action. Collaboration with our staff, stakeholders, colleagues and other districts has been crucial,” said Burnaford.

In a second letter to parents sent on July 2, district pandemic coordinator Karen Krisch said, “This is a work in progress” and a formal plan will be presented to the school board later this month for approval. She said that plan will also allow for adjustments if circumstances change, and the interim superintendent will be issuing memos for parents at least bi-weekly to keep them up-todate throughout the year.

According to the district webpage, a survey in June was sent to parents of children in the district to collect information for the reopening of schools; more than 1,700 responses were received. About two-thirds of parents and guardians indicated they would like to get their child physically back to school, while the district follows strict health and safety guidelines. A second survey was sent out with the letter from Burnaford on July 1, with responses due by July 7.

In her letter, Krisch said she wanted parents and guardians to know they are not “locked in” to choices they are indicating on the survey.

The following information was taken from Burnaford’s letter to district parents and guardians:

In the first option under the green phase, staff and students will return to the school building full-time. Students and staff will be highly encouraged to wear face coverings throughout the day with the exception of classroom teaching time and when eating or drinking.

Social distancing of 3 to 6 feet will be practiced when it is possible. The school is working on a plan to reduce hallway traffic, as well as the number of people in the cafeteria at one time. More details will be shared in the near future. Parents will be expected to take their child’s temperature daily prior to putting students on buses or dropping them off at school, and sign an agreement not to send children to school if they are ill. Staff will be required to do the same.

Any students who are quarantined will be able to continue learning through Google Classroom, as teachers will be using the platform so there is a seamless transition should the district have to provide instruction to quarantined students or in the case of a switch to a yellow or red phase. The district curriculum will be followed and be on pace to be completely implemented whether in-person or through Google Classroom.

Parents and guardians who are not comfortable with their children returning to school full-time will also have the option to sign their students up for the BeLA program. Classes are taught 100 percent online through asynchronous learning, which means the students will log in to the classes whenever they choose to do so and complete the assignments that have been given by the online teachers. BeLA utilizes the learning platform Odysseyware for the courses and teachers.

BeLA will be open to students in grades kindergarten through 12. Participation in BeLA will be offered on a semester basis, meaning if parents choose this option for the fall semester, that will be the avenue for education for the entire semester.

Parents may choose to have their student return to the school building for the spring semester.

Should Centre County move back to the yellow phase, the district plans to switch to a staggered-day model, with half of the students coming to school on days one, three and five, and the other half of students coming to school on days two, four and six.

Students will be separated according to the last name across the district, so that families will be attending school on the same day. If family members have different last names, the district will work with them so that all members of the immediate family are attending school on the same days.

During the days when a student is home, students will be expected to work virtually on the assignments in Google Classroom.

If the county drops to the red phase, all instruction will be completed virtually in Google Classroom.

The district said all buses will be equipped with hand-sanitizing stations. Face masks and coverings are highly recommended for students who travel via bus.

The district is still formulating plans for bus social distancing and is asking for parental input.