Answers to frequently-asked questions
In a decision made by Gov. Tom Wolf and former Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, schools across the commonwealth, including Bellefonte Area School District, remained closed for the 2019-20 school year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Q&A can be found below -- separated by school year -- to learn more about how this affects Bellefonte Area School District during the closure and reopening for the 2020-21 school year. Administrators, school board members and others respond to frequently-asked questions. Please note that information constantly changes, but the district will work diligently to provide the community with as much information as possible as it becomes available.
You may also find information about COVID-19 as is impacts the district in a series of links found, here: COVID-19 pandemic
Question and answer
*Created March 16, 2020. Updated 9:23 a.m. Dec. 15, 2020.
In August 2020, the state changed COVID-19 levels per county to "low," "moderate" and "substantial," which replaces phases green, yellow and red.
Question: As it reopens, will district buildings be open to the community in the summer?
Yes, however there will be limited hours. Office hours for central office are 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday starting June 12. Please visit school websites for more specific times.
- Bellefonte Area High School
- Bellefonte Area Middle School
- Bellefonte Elementary School
- Benner Elementary School
- Marion-Walker Elementary School
- Pleasant Gap Elementary School
Tammie Burnaford (assistant superintendent): At this time, we are planning to close all school offices to the public on Fridays for the summer months. This will begin on June 12, 2020. We will be adhering to all CDC guidelines in an abundance of caution every day. Closing on Fridays will allow time for our custodial staff to perform additional, deep cleaning in the offices each week. We will advertise these changes on the website and at the schools.
Q: How will board meetings operate in the new school year under the state's mandates?Starting June 16, Bellefonte Area school board meetings will be held in-person at the Bellefonte Area Middle School cafeteria. The district is following CDC guidelines -- attendees are encouraged to wear a face covering and distancing will be enforced. Due to a state order made on July 15 (and effective on July 16), events such as board meetings cannot exceed 25 people. Board meetings will be held via Zoom and streamed live on the district's YouTube account. Meetings are limited to board members, presenters and other employees required to be at the meetings.Beginning Sept. 8, Bellefonte Area school board meetings will be available to the public via Zoom only. Register, here: Board meeting registration. Due to the governor's orders, school board meetings are restricted to a 25-person limit. That limit leaves little-to-no room for in-person public attendance, therefore, Zoom will be made available for public participation. Written comments for the board may be submitted any time via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we continue to adjust to the mandates we are given.
Q: Are COVID-19 limitations impacting the proposed elementary building project?
*See this link regarding updates of the proposed elementary school building project: Elementary building project.
Q: The 2020-21 calendar revisions were approved by the school board on June 16. What are some important changes to note?
The first day of school is Aug. 25. You may see the calendar, here: 2020-21 calendar
Q: Does the district have a plan for how to start the 2020-21 school year?
Yes. On July 30, the Bellefonte Area school board approved the final return-to-school health and safety plan for the fall. It includes a variety of learning options in all phases of opening, along with details about sick day policy and cleaning and sanitation. You may find the full plan, here: Fall back-to-school health and safety plan
Learn more about return-to-school plans
Bellefonte eLearning Academy, along with the hybrid learning option, which allows students to learn remotely on certain days, while others will be physically in school on other days, will help limit the number of students on buses and in buildings, allowing for the district to comply with guidance regarding distancing recommendations. Learn more about the state's guidance, here: Guidance
*Please note information is subject to change as the state and health department continuously alter guidelines under the COVID-19 pandemic. Alterations must be board approved, sent to the state and posted publicly online.
Q: How will distancing work while students and staff are in the classroom and other areas of the building?
Karen Krisch (pandemic coordinator): Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines ask for six feet when feasible, and the American Associations of Pediatrics has also been consulted and we talked with some local pediatricians about this, and we are aiming for six feet in around the building. In some cases it’s not practical to get six feet. We will have a minimum of three feet when students are in class or lunch or other parts of the building, and that’s why our plan it states three to six feet. Even though we will try for six, it wont be possible at all times, but students will also be required to wear face coverings and that will help mitigate those risks when they're less than six feet.
We are also working to reduce hallway traffic, in addition to students congregating in an area at one time. Each building is a little different, so it will depend on the setting of the building. We will be having signage and floor markings that show pathways for traffic. In some cases, there will be same-way routes, and in cases where it is not possible, there will be signage or staggered times when people are in the hallways. Principals are working on plans for their buildings to accommodate that.
For the mornings before school, we're working on a plan to figure out where students will be located. In the elementary schools, students will not be congregated in the cafeteria or gym or in the lobby. The state recommends we send students directly to class and we're working on scheduling and coverage to help us plan that. One of the things we ask parents to do if they're dropping off students, is to drop them off as close to school start times as possible, so that we don’t have a large number of students that we have to place before school starts.
Desks will also be placed at a minimum of three feet apart. When possible, desks will be spaced even further apart to provide for as much physical distancing as possible. Plastic dividers will not be placed on or around desks. Students will have assigned seats for each class. This will help with contact-tracing information, if necessary.
*According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Evidence suggests that spacing as close as three feet may approach the benefits of six feet of space, particularly if students are wearing face coverings and are asymptomatic." See more, here: AAP guidance
Q: What will class changes look like for those grade levels that switch classes during the day?
In fourth and fifth grades, students will remain in their homeroom classes rather than switch for departmentalized classes. Teachers will push into the classes to provide instruction. Specialists such as art, music, health and library will also push into the classes. Students will leave the classroom for physical education.
At the middle school, we will be keeping the students grouped by their team (red or white) throughout the day. Teams will be dismissed from their classes at different times, so that hallway traffic is limited. Students will be trained to utilize hand sanitizer when leaving and entering the classroom.
At the high school, extra time will be given at the end of class to clean and sanitize desks and for students to wash hands or use hand sanitizer. The high school will utilize a block schedule to minimize the number of transitions during the day.
The high school ran a modified block schedule the past few years. Days 5 and 6 of the six-day cycle included half of a student's classes occurring on Day 5 and the other half on Day 6. Student meet with four classes on Day 1 of the cycle for approximately 90 minutes each. Then, on Day 2, the student will meet with the four other classes that did not meet on Day 1. Those schedules will cycle back and forth each day -- one half of the classes on Days 1, 3 and 5 and the other half on Days 2, 4 and 6. Classes will follow this schedule for the entire year. Lunches occur in the middle of the day for 30 minutes. There are three lunch modules -- each, which is built around an extended-time class in the middle of the day.
Q: Will students use lockers?
Students will still be permitted to use lockers at the middle and high schools, but are encouraged to limit the number of personal items that they bring to school each day. The middle school is exploring options to help limit the number of trips that students will make to their lockers, as well as the number of students who will be at their lockers in close proximity. At the elementary schools, this will be a building-level decision. In some cases, student hooks for belongings will be added or student belongings will be kept near their desks. There will be no sharing of cubbies.
Q: What will time such as lunch and recess look like?
Karen Krisch (pandemic coordinator): At the elementary level, if we can’t get three to six feet in the cafeteria, then they will be eating with their cohorts in the classrooms to help get greater distance. We will have meals delivered and will be using a barcode system. Kids will just need to know their first and last names. And as stated before, there will be assigned seats as there is for everything else.
At the middle school, students will be spaced a minimum of three feet apart in the cafeteria, with only one team of students eating at a time. Students will still have free time around their lunch period. Lunch will be split by teams (red or white). When one team is eating lunch, the other team will be at free time. If the weather is not appropriate for being outside, students will go to the auditorium for free time. Teams will then switch and the team eating lunch will go to free time and the team participating in free time will transition to lunch. There will be additional time built in for any student who may need more time to finish eating their lunch.
Mike Fedisson (high school principal): At the high school on block day lunches, we assigned lunches based on the teacher during that portion of the day. We try to be strategic based on each class. With the high school, you’ll typically have a third of the student population eating at one time. To try to create more distance and a safe environment, we’re going to be splitting the period into two separate locations – cafeteria and auxiliary gymnasium. This will ensure six feet of distancing when students have their lunch. We will also have the same lunch options available, though they may be somewhat more limited than usual. To help with ordering and paying for lunch, we believe there is an app connected with our software that students can have on their smart phone to help with contactless payment. Instead of punching in their number on a pin pad that others have also touched, they can have their phone scanned, which will also help speed up the process. Lunches, like many other large space environments, will need to have assigned seating and we will have to keep those consistent for contact tracing.
Laura Frye (food service director): The district’s food service department has also rolled out a smartphone application that will allow high school students to use their phones to display a barcode that will be scanned, instead of students using the touchpad to enter a pin number. The goal is to reduce physical contact with the touchpad. A student’s seven-digit student ID will allow them to access the SchoolCafe app making display of the barcode available on their device. If a student does not have an electronic device, then their five-digit cafeteria PIN may be entered by the cashier, so their experience remains touchless.
*Please note: Cafeteria tables will be cleaned with soap and water and then a spray will be applied and can be left to dry or wiped with a cloth or paper towel.
Recess will be set up by grade level. Each school will have a specific procedure for recess. Students will use hand sanitizer before and after recess. Recess equipment such as balls, jump ropes and more will be cleaned daily. Playhouse equipment, swings and other playground equipment are not required to be cleaned daily, but the district will regularly clean high-touch areas.
Karen Krisch (pandemic coordinator): Most schools are doing zones in playgrounds and students will play and be able to have recess with their homerooms, so we're not mixing cohorts. Students will be in zones and each day they can rotate through a zone. we’re also working on getting classroom recess equipment, so each class can have their own equipment and disinfectant.
Q: Will students be able to borrow books from the library?
Naomi Rupert (Bellefonte Area middle and high school librarian): Our goal as a department was to offer as many opportunities as possible for students to have access to books. At this time, our libraries are doing its best to following guidelines set by the CDC and REALM (Reopening Archives, Libraries and Museums). The latest research from REALM showed that the virus can be detected on surfaces up to six or more days if stored, stacked or close together like they are on shelves. It also showed that books needed significantly less time to quarantine if they were stored unstacked. That being said, we don't have the room to store hundreds of books spread out. Our librarians are quarantining any books that come back for a minimum of one cycle. A cycle is typically eight days including the weekend. We are not sanitizing the books unless they are dirty and need to be cleaned for that purpose as excessive cleaning can damage the covers.
We are currently allowing students to check out more books than usual in case we shut down. Six books and/or items are allowed to be checked out at one time. Again, we want our students to have as many opportunities for reading at home as possible.
At the middle and high school levels, students can request books online and the librarian and/or clerk will pull them for student pick up later in the day. Students also have the option to browse in the library to get books. We just ask that they use hand sanitizer when they enter and exit. We are also offering a curbside pickup for BeLA students. So far, we have had a few students take advantage of the process.
Brenna Estel (librarian, Bellefonte / Benner): Grades 1-5 use the OPAC to put books on hold and those books are delivered the following week during library class. Kindergarten students use the OPAC occasionally and have an interest paper for other days to choose the books they prefer. Students may get up to 6 books unless the hold list is empty or all holds are checked out to other students. Hybrid students can put books on hold from home and find their books in their desk if they miss library. We are currently not providing books to our BELA students.
Books are quarantined in plastic totes for 2 cycles (16 days) according to the most up to date REALM study.
Danielle Mock (librarian, Marion Walker / Pleasant Gap):
-Students are able to have up to 6 books checked out at a time
-K & 1 choose their books from a cart
-2-5 do book reserves on the OPAC (online catalog)---books are then delivered to their classroom
-Students place books in bookbags and sanitize right after choosing books
-They do not have to renew books this year, just return as they finish
-They do not have to return all 6 books by the next library class and should not be returning all 6 by next library class.
-Students return books to return bin by library door.
-They can return books at any time to the return bin.
-Upon return, books are quarantined for one full cycle
Q: Assuming water fountains will not be permitted, if the supply of water students are sent to school with runs out, will they be provided a bottle of water?
Yes, there will be extra bottles of water for students. The bottle-filler stations will also be available for students.
Q: What educational options are available if families don't feel comfortable sending their child to school physically in the first semester of school?
Bellefonte Area School District offers Bellefonte eLearning Academy for district students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It's an online and virtual learning program under direction of the district's longtime Cyber Education Coordinator Rebecca Leitzell. The program has been an option for students for more than 10 years. Learn more about the program, here: BeLA or see the BeLA back-to-school FAQ, here: BeLA FAQ
Q: Who oversees Bellefonte eLearning Academy?
This is a program directly through Bellefonte Area School District that uses third-party providers to provide online learning services to students within the district. There are mainly two people who oversee BeLA. Sommer Garman is the BeLA principal, in addition to principal at Bellefonte Area Middle School. Rebecca Leitzell is the district’s cyber education coordinator, who has been the program’s primary facilitator for more than eight years.
Q: How is BeLA different from other cyber education programs?
Sommer Garman (BeLA principal): The No. 1 way BeLA is different than other programs is that your student is still -- and always will be -- a Bellefonte Area School District student. We love our kids and we want to keep them with us in any way possible. They are still welcome to participate in school extracurricular activities, as well, including attending Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.
Q: Who is BeLA available to?
Sommer Garman (BeLA principal): All Bellefonte Area School District students starting in kindergarten. BeLA is broken down into two different platforms – elementary, which is K-5, and secondary.
*At a special board meeting on July 30, the Bellefonte Area school board unanimously approved the BeLA program to use a provider for elementary online learning. In the past, the program only went down to third grade. After extensive research, Pearson was decided as the best program for elementary students. Learn more, here: Elementary BeLA information
Question: The closure is a decision that came from the state. Is there an option to neglect the governor’s orders and continue with school anyway?
Michelle Saylor (superintendent): There are no options. School is closed and Bellefonte Area School District will follow the governor’s direction. It is imperative that we slow the spread of the virus to ensure public health within our community. To do otherwise is irresponsible.
Q: Does this also mean school board meetings will be canceled?
Jon Guizar (board president): No, we're looking into virtual meetings using the Zoom video platform, which allows remote access to and which will be shared on the district's web and social media sites. There are several options for public input, including emailing comments to email@example.com. You may also find those live-streamed board meetings, here: BASD YouTube
Starting June 16, Bellefonte Area school board meetings will be held in-person at the Bellefonte Area Middle School cafeteria. The district is following CDC guidelines -- attendees are encouraged to wear a mask and distancing will be enforced.
- School board meeting 7 p.m. March 24, 2020
- School board meeting 7 p.m. April 7, 2020
- School board meeting 7 p.m. April 21, 2020
- School board meeting 7 p.m. May 12, 2020
- School board meeting 7 p.m. May 26, 2020
Q: Has the closure impacted the superintendent search to replace Dr. Saylor who is retiring at the end of the school year?
*Please see formal statement from the school board, here: Supeintendent position
Q: How will this closure impact planning of the proposed elementary project?
Jon Guizar (board president): We are in the middle of talks with Hunt engineers and architects. They have completed their initial phase of review on the buildings and they got some initial information, which they shared with the building committee. Another meeting was held with them May 7. They've also worked with building principals (in April) to discuss options for educational space needs and have submitted information to the community in an effort to receive feedback. At the school board meeting on March 24, an ad hoc committee was introduced that includes a total of 20 members – four from the school board, nine individuals from the four impacted buildings, four administrators and three members of the community. This committee will work closely with Hunt to help in the communication of the project and with facilitating public meetings with information presented by Hunt from now until a decision is made.
Q: How is this unprecedented time impacting the district’s budget?
Ken Bean (director of fiscal affairs): The good news in all this is we usually budget conservatively, so it might not impact us as much as it might have if we were aggressive. That being said, it’s still going to impact us. This isn’t just a this-year budget problem – it’s going to continue for the next at-least two years, and could see effects for three or more years. A lot depends on what happens at the state level in the coming year.
Unfortunately, a lot of things have changed since I started the budget in November, and with everything going on with the pandemic and closings, state funding has definitely negatively been impacted. Our local revenue will be negatively impacted. We haven’t seen that yet, but the way the taxes come in is going to be a month or two lag until I see the results of that, and it’s going to continue on through the summer as a lot of the tax money for this fiscal year will not be received by the school district until the summertime.
The fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30.
What is going to change is property tax. The problem with all these things is I don’t know how much things are going to be affected if the collection rate could be decreased. We budget 95 percent (for taxes), but we usually collect about 96 percent. (At Bellefonte Area School District, one percent is about $266,000). If they were to freeze property taxes, that would cost the district about $850,000. All revenues have basically been knocked back to the 2016-17 school year levels and in total so far I have knocked (the budget) down by over $1.1 million. Interest has declined and is declining, and interest rates are way down. I’m budgeting about $150,000 (for interest). To put into perspective, we got over $500,000 last year.
The district was in a similar situation in 2008.
Right now, the state is looking a $4 billion shortfall of their budget – a 10 to 12 percent shortfall. They’re saying at a minimum, basic education funding will be frozen for at least a year. I knocked it back by $250,000 using the 2017 rates. But at this time, I don’t know what that number is going to be and I don’t know if anyone at the state knows what that number’s going to be. We could be looking at a special education funding decrease, as well. The state is still looking into what it’s getting in for personal income tax, but since the filing deadline was moved to July 15, that number is not readily available. We also budget $600,000 a year for transportation funding(from the state). They’ve tried to take this out and decrease it, and they said to watch out for this one as we could lose it completely.
Harrisburg is looking at a sixth-month (state) budget from July to December and then January to June. We hear that if they do this, they would give education a 12-month budget. That’s just what we’re being told. However, we have to pass a full budget by June 30. All timelines for public school districts remain the same.
Something else they’re talking about is the fund balance. We run a 7 percent fund balance. They’re talking about different bills to run down the fund balance. This is our savings. It gets us through if the state doesn’t pass the budget on time, which has been known to happen several times the past 10 years. With this, we’re able to cover bills, cover salary and cover tuition to various places over the years. If they do this, it it will seriously impact future bond issues because it will lower our fund balance, it will decrease our fund rating and cause the interest on those bonds to be higher than they normally would.
By state law, school district fund balances must be less than 8 percent.
If people say, ‘You haven’t had school for the last three months; you should be saving all this money,’ the answer is, ‘No, we haven’t.’ We're paying salaries, we’re paying bus contracts, we’re paying tuition to charter schools and CPI and to all these educational facilities we normally would have students in. The only expenses we haven’t had is a little bit of field trips and minor supplies, but most of that is bought by this time of year, so we’re projecting a $1 to $2 million loss for the current year. That’s estimated until we see some of the revenue numbers from taxes that will tell us more, but they don’t come in until sometime over the summer.
As of May 12, 2020, the BASD revenue budget for the 2020-21 school year has been reduced by $1.77 million. This is subject to change. You may hear Bean's budget report about this, here: Budget presentation
*See this document for more information: Budget slideshow. You may also listen to Bean’s April 21-presentation to the school board, here: Budget presentation. The district also applied for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund grant, but did not receive any grant monies. The district also plans to apply for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grant. It’s estimated to receive about $345,000 from that grant to use within one year.
Q: How will this closure impact the remainder of the 2019-20 school year? The last day of school for students was scheduled for June 9, and in general, there is a 180-day school year requirement from the state.
Dr. Saylor: The state has said ‘schools will not be penalized.' We anticipate keeping our graduation schedule on track and will continue with the learning plan. Right now, that’s where we are with the governor’s guidance, and we don't anticipate dragging out the year through the end of June.
Following the approved school calendar, the last student day of the 2019-20 school year will be June 9. Graduation is set for June 5 with a June 8 makeup day. Teachers may provide review or enrichment activities for students to do during the summer months, as it has been done in the past.
*See district calendar, here: 2019-20 calendar
Q: Will the district provide alternative learning options for students during this closure?
Dr. Saylor: Yes, we had supported enrichment and review since it rolled out on March 30 via online and offline learning options. We are also adopting planned instruction. The state initially told us we’re required to offer continuity of education, which could be done in one of two formats – enrichment and review, and formal instruction. Bellefonte Area School District, along with most other districts in the state and all of the school districts within Central Intermediate Unit 10, supported enrichment and review, because it enabled us to be equitable in our delivery of education. We’re not a district where 100 percent of our students have access to the internet. FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) is our primary concern, so we can provide appropriate public education to all of our students.
I had a very long conversation with PDE – one-on-one, me talking to them about our plan. The feedback we got is it’s an extremely thoughtful (and) compassionate plan that looks at delivery of education through a lens of equity. They’re satisfied with our plan with a base foundation of enrichment and review with layers added for different demographic groups and layers added for planned instruction dealing with preview, learning, big ideas and concepts associated with key ideas of learning that would have occurred in the fourth quarter. It’s our understanding that’s going to go even further with the sate with a focus on language arts and math. Although we will have that focus, we will also take a whole-child approach, and continue to provide learning activities and options for all of our areas including our specials, because we really think that’s extremely important – and especially some of the social and emotional learning components that our counselors and our teachers are working on. This added instruction will all be introduced in the next few weeks.
We have many parents express concern of feeling overwhelmed of having to manage the education of their child. They’re parents; not teachers – and they’re trying their best, so we’ve created a plan that is very user friendly. It’s designed to provide (online and offline learning options) for all of our students and also designed to reach them with full access.
Teachers (and instructional coaches) met virtually to develop the menu of options for our continuity of education plan (launched March 30 and submitted to PDE April 2). A lot of the school districts in the IU are using our menu choice boards. The menu of options were created at all levels – primary and intermediate, by grade level and team at the middle school, and by course and content at the senior high school. They also have core areas and special areas. There are offline options, as well as online options, so we meet the needs of all of our students, and there is access and entry into learning for all students. We wanted to make sure (this plan) is not technology dependent. The reason for this is for equity.
Tammie Burnaford (assistant superintendent): We have so many different families and kids and needs in our district, and it’s difficult to meet the needs of everyone. We have parents who are looking for the next meal and we have parents who are looking for the next AP course, but we had a goal that we're going to try to meet and make those connections with families and kids as much as we could and try to build partnerships and work with them as much as possible. Since that last board meeting (on April 7), we heard many parents were looking for more rigorous activities. This week we added extensions to those menu boards that are much more rigorous for those families. We had provided more extensions and reached out to families who wanted more for their kids, and provided that for them, while also trying to get more connections with teachers for those menu boards.
As of last Wednesday (April 15) Pedro Rivera (state education secretary) has said PDE has expectations of school districts to provide planned instruction for all grade levels. This is far different from the guidance in the beginning with enrichment and review options to meet the needs of our families. Now, we must move toward planned instruction. We still have major concerns over equity issues and the stress we’re placing on families who are just trying to make ends meet, while still trying to meet the needs of families who want more. Immediately after the declaration, I was in Zoom meetings with teachers trying to build those planned instruction platforms and be cognizant of the needs of all of our families.
The planned learning component of the district's COE plan will begin with a slow rollout the week of April 27 with one assignment per core subject per week, and assignments that will be due a week from the day it’s assigned. Grading will be on a pass-fail-type system.
Planned instruction and choice boards will be similar to the previous weeks during the weeks of May 18 and May 25, although we will be observing Memorial Day and no teaching will occur on that day. During the week of June 1, choice boards may include some assignments and activities that do not require as much technology, as this will be the last full week of school. Following the approved school calendar, the last student day of the 2019-20 school year will be June 9. Teachers may provide some review or enrichment activities for students to do during the summer months, as it has been done in the past.
*To see the planned instruction menus, visit this link: School closing resources for parents. The full COE plan can be found, here: Continuity of Education. Additionally, Burnaford presented further information to the school board on April 21 about updates to planned instruction. You may see her presentation, here: Planned instruction. You may also find the presentation report, here: COE plan update
Q: Under the state's order, the district must provide a required learning program for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, called "planned instruction," which introduces new, graded material. What does that look like at each building level?
Bellefonte Area High School (infomation from Principal Mike Fedisson)
Beginning the week of April 27, students will be required to submit activities to Google Classroom for feedback from their teachers. Students will be asked to submit one activity per course each week. These required activities will be highlighted on the activity menus and should be posted on each teacher’s Google Classroom. Activity menus are posted Monday morning each week and required activities are due the following Monday at noon. Required activities can be submitted as soon as they have been completed. As activities are submitted, your child’s teacher will provide guidance and feedback regarding the activity. Additionally, classroom meetings will begin to occur using Google Meets.
Beginning the week of May 4, teachers will be introducing new content from the curriculum and including these assignments on the activity menus. These activities may require the student to watch video training, read instructions or join a Google Meets gathering to learn more about the topic or content. All learning will occur through Google Classroom or teacher meetings via Google Meets. Students also should routinely check their school email for important messages from teachers and administrators.
Grading will consist of submitting required weekly assignments for teacher feedback and assessment. Those assignments will be logged in Powerschool for completion. Final course grades will be based upon the numerical grade that was earned prior to March 11, which will include final grades for the first, second and third quarter. High school grades will also include midterm exam grades for classes that completed a midterm exam. There will not be final exams for BAHS courses for the remainder of the (school) year. Students in AP or College in the High School classes may still need to complete the AP exam or CHS final exam for university credit.
Bellefonte Area Middle School (information from Vice Principal Mike Baughman)
The required work is displayed on the choice boards that the students have been receiving, but they have evolved to include the required work. We are encouraging students to participate in all classes they would have normally to the best of their abilities. Teachers have been utilizing Google Classroom as a way to deliver their content and make it available to students. They have also used Google Meets to continue to connect and maintain established relationships with students. While the majority of our students have access to internet and have been engaging in that manner, teachers have also been making arrangements for students who don't have access to submit their assignments in different ways, while also mailing materials home to those students. Teachers have been and will continue to offer students feedback on the work they are completing and turning in.
Student work is collected and each teacher marks that it has been collected. Parents are able to see this in PowerSchool. Throughout the rest of the year, instead of focusing on actual grades, our teachers are focusing on providing feedback to the students to help them grow. At the end of the marking period, students will be graded on a P-Pass or F-Fail basis.
Teachers will introduce new material each school day for a different core subject with specials on Fridays. Assignments are due one week from assigned date.
*Please note that all additional communication regarding instruction and potential learning changes will come from the building level with the child's teacher(s) and/or the school principal. You may also find more information about grading and attendance through the district's Continuity of Education plan, here: COE plan update
Q: Why did the state make the change from allowing schools to provide optional enrichment and review to requiring planned instruction?
Nicole Reigelman (communication director for the PA Department of Education): I’m happy to explain to you why the department's recommendation evolved regarding Continuity of Education. I’d prefer to explain to you on background. As per Education Secretary Pedro Rivera...
'As educators, our top priority has always been to ensure the health and safety of students. As such, the immediate days after the statewide school closure were focused on communicating with families, removing barriers and providing meals to students. As the situation evolved – and the duration of the closure extended -- we placed a strong emphasis on continuity of education, either through enrichment and review or planned instruction.
(The) announcement that schools will remain closed for the balance of the school year was another effort to prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff and communities. It also means that with half of April, all of May and some of June ahead of us, we must increase the intensity and focus of our efforts around instruction for all students, at all grade levels.
As educators preparing students to continue on to postsecondary opportunities, the workforce or transitioning to their next grade, it is our responsibility and expectation that every school offer planned instruction at every grade level for all students.'
*This decision was made by PDE on April 15 and relayed to school districts such as Bellefonte Area School District. Please see the full statement from PDE for more information: PDE COE information
Q: How can families gain access to subject material if they don't have the means at home?
Dr. Saylor: What we intend to do is distribute hard copies through the lunch system. That way they’re out in different areas of the community if they want to pick them up. We’re not putting any other staff out in the field and we’re efficiently using the systems we already have in place. We also mailed out those packets to families who have notified us and let us know they need a hardcopy mailed to them.
*To see locations for various meal programs in the Bellefonte Area, see this link: Locations
Q: What could this mean for high school seniors specifically?
Dr. Saylor: We have plans in place to address the needs of our seniors. Our intent is that everyone graduates; our intent is that all those pieces continue to move forward, so our students move onto the next phase of their lives. They will be graduating on time. That will not change.
At the school board meeting on April 21, the board unanimously approved to waive the district's graduation requirements and align with the PA Department of Education. BASD graduation requirements are greater than the state's. The state additionally has recommended leniency.
No senior will be penalized for not being able to meet work that should have occurred during the mandated closure.
Please see district features about the Class of 2020:
- Class of 2020
- Senior spotlight
- Spring sports seniors
- Valedictorian and salutatorian
- Graduation photo gallery
*See guidance information regarding high school graduation for current seniors from the state Department of Education: Class of 2020
Q: How will graduation work for the Class of 2020?
Mike Fedisson (Bellefonte Area High School principal): We will be holding a drive-thru type ceremony. Families were asked to complete a linked sign-up for a designated time slot on June 5 with a rain date June 8.
In talking with students and families, we really tried to encapsulate what has been the most important part of graduation from the feedback they’ve given us. What we kept hearing over and over was that families wanted some kind of in-person moment where their name is called, they can cross the stage and get their diploma. Our task was how to best accomplish that in a safe and meaningful way, and what we’ve created is a drive-thru-type graduation that many schools are probably doing and allow 10 minutes per family.
Students and families will enter across from the Rite Aid and be routed through the student parking lot where they’ll be checked in and receive their diploma with a name plaque with any honor they have won. They’ll then be put into a queue where there are two stages set up – a stage at the end of the main entrance (near the bus platform) and a second set up outside of the theater entrance. As cars circle the student lot, one row will be routed across the front of the school (and) the other set of cars will be routed behind the school to Beaver Farm Lane to turn into the theater entrance. (Vice Principal) Mr. (Dan) Park will be at one stage and I will be at the other. As each family arrives, the student will exit the vehicle, come to the stage, will have their name called and cross the stage with their diploma where families can take videos, etc., and then each student will get back into their vehicles. Both streams of traffic will be routed to the lanes by the red light and back out onto Bishop Street. That will continue for about 10 hours until we get through everyone.
There are several video releases to the district’s YouTube account starting June 1. Videos are created by video production teacher Carla Cipro. Please also note that there are restrictions from the state, despite Centre County moving to the green phase of opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state still prohibits large group gatherings of 250 or more guests -- even if individuals are spaced out in the recommended six-foot distance. Per the state, Bellefonte Area School District buildings (and grounds) are also closed to the public until at least June 11. Please see information from the state, here: Green phase order and Centre County moves to green. The governor and state Department of Education websites have more information about the phases of opening the commonwealth and what is allowed and restricted at establishments, institutions and more.
*To listen to the presentation Fedisson made at the May 26 board meeting about graduation and other plans for seniors, please visit this link: Grad presentation. He talks about logistics, abiding by state-recommended distancing guidelines, communication with other local school districts, plans to create more opportunities for the grads and more. He also speaks in detail at the May 12 and April 21 school board meetings.
Q: How can students learn more about grades?
Tammie Burnaford (assistant superintendent): Grading during COVID-19 for our students at the elementary level will encompass a Participate (P) or Did Not Participate (DNP) system. Participate will be given to students who have submitted required activities. DNP will be given to students who did not complete submissions for the required activities. A version of a progress report, similar to what was used during the first marking period, will be distributed during the summer, approximately June or July 2020, to share progress and updates with parents given the changed parameters of COVID-19.
Secondary at the middle and high schools, grading will consist of submitting required weekly assignments for teacher feedback and assessment. Those assignments will be logged in PowerSchool for completion. Parents may view their children’s participation in assignment submission and completion through the Parent Portal. This is similar to accessing grades in the past. More information about grading and final course grade calculations for students will be sent to parents the week of May 4. In addition, any grading policies specific to seniors will be sent out later, as needed. A final progress report card for students will be mailed home following the end of the 2019-20 school year.
A review of postsecondary institutions’ responses to the COVID-19 situation, particularly as it relates to the interpretation of high school transcripts from the spring 2020 semester, indicates that these institutions will examine student records through the lens of whatever grading system a school district chooses to implement. Further, students will be neither penalized nor considered differently should their high schools have alternative reporting methods during this time.
*Students and families will be contacted by building level administrators or teachers regarding any changes to grading. You may find more information about grading and attendance through the district's Continuity of Education plan, here: COE plan update
Q: Is Bellefonte eLearning Academy available to students not already enrolled in the program during this closure since it's the district's primary cyber education program?
Rebecca Leitzell (cyber education coordinator): Not during the state-ordered closure, though we're looking into options to make that available. Since all schools across the commonwealth are closed, in additional to school-related activities and events, that includes the BeLA program. Still, I am continuing to provide supports for BeLA students. I have continued to reach out to students and parents at least once a week via email to check in with them. I have weekly office hours and they can reach out at any time via email to ask for supports. I also continue to reach out to support students in other ways. I have been meeting with students using technology to support students and provide meaningful feedback.
*Cyber charter school are also closed as per the state's order. However, enrollment is open for the 2020-21 school year. Visit this link for more program information: Bellefonte eLearning Academy
Q: What are the effects of this pandemic and school closure on career and technical schools such as CPI that serve Bellefonte Area students?
On March 23, the state secretary of education canceled standardized tests for students in career and technical education programs for the 2019-20 school year. This included exams from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute and National Institute of Metalworking Skills. See full statement, here: CTE testing cancelations
Bellefonte Area school board member and CPI JOC member Kim Weaver gave a presentation to the school board on May 12 about some CPI plans, including that for its certificate night. You may learn more, here: CPI presentation
Please see Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology's Continuity of Education plan, here: CPI's COE