District reopening taskforce
At the end of the May, a taskforce was created for Bellefonte Area School District with about 50 administrative, faculty and staff members from different buildings, departments and grade levels, in addition to school board members. The ultimate goal is to create a series of plans heading into the 2020-21 school year, following guidance from the state.
The taskforce was made due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help lead the charge, the Bellefonte Area school board approved Marion-Walker Elementary School Principal Karen Krisch as the district's pandemic coordinator. It's a position required by the state.
In information released to district families on June 1, Assistant Superintendent Tammie Burnaford said:
“We have no way of knowing what August will bring or what will happen in this rapidly-changing world. In an address, Gov. (Tom) Wolf said that schools will open this fall, but how that looks may be different and new. However, please know at Bellefonte Area we are wholeheartedly committed to providing the safest and best education possible for all of our students next school year. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has sent us a toolkit of recommendations and options. We will use that toolkit as we begin to make plans for the 2020-21 school year. We already have assembled our own district taskforce and have begun our discussions and planning, and continue to build our contingency plans over the next two months.”
The taskforce’s first goal is to create a health and safety plan, which will serve as guidance for all school reopening activities. This first part of the plan will focus on the topics of health, safety and wellness. By the end of June, PDE will also issue similar guidance for the educational and instructional aspects of reopening schools, which will focus on instructional delivery, equity, and social and emotional health of students. All plans must be approved by the school board, submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and posted publicly online.
“As a district, we want to be very proactive in our planning,” Burnaford said. “We know that working together we can create a safe and nurturing environment for students, as we try to be flexible to provide the best experiences for all students by whatever means we can.”
The taskforce’s hope is to have a variety of options to meet different needs of students, parents and families. Along with writing the health and safety plans, the taskforce also will be conducting surveys, which include surveying teachers, parents and families about instruction during the past few months and collecting information from parents and families about future plans.