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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Will students have access to Chromebooks provided by the district, while school is closed due to novel coronavirus?
Rick Knepp (director of technology): Yes. The administrative team continues to have discussions about that. A pros and cons review was conducted on the distribution of Chromebooks and our administrative team looked at possible options. Middle (and high school) Chromebooks have been delivered to families that requested them. As for elementary, the board approved the motion to distribute them to the elementary students (April 21). Our hope is to get those out by the end of the week, or by latest Monday (April 27).
Dr. Saylor: The technology department has worked on preparation for delivery, which includes sanitation of the devices and will take multiple days to complete. The (technology department) is additionally maximizing this time with schools closed to clean up PowerSchool information and may reach out to parents in the near future to update and/or confirm information.
Graduating seniors have the option to buy their Chromebook from the school. More information about this opportunity will be sent to seniors from the high school principal.
*At a school board meeting on April 21, the board unanimously approved $10,000 to be saved for potential Chromebook repairs and/or replacements to those distributed to elementary school students. That figure is based on projected costs. To request your or your child's Chromebook, please fill out this survey: Chromebook request form
How is the district planning for the care and education of special ed students?
Gina MacFalls (special education director): Special education presents a challenge to schools in terms of providing a Free Appropriate Public Education to students with disabilities. The district has taken a two-pronged approach based on our local Continuity of Education plan. Teachers and administrators have been meeting on a daily basis to craft and refine activities that all students can access. Our special education teachers have been a part of this process all along the way.
With regard to individual student needs, each special education teacher and/or related service provider have reached out to each parent and outline a good-faith, best-effort to honor our obligation of providing free appropriate public education and meet the needs of their child during this period of closure, when many instructional resources and face-to-face contact are necessarily limited. This interim plan is intended to remain in effect only during the period of emergency school closure. It does not replace the current IEP, which will resume when the mandated closure ends. When school resumes, the IEP team will conduct individualized assessments of your child’s academic and functional skills to determine a need for compensatory services that may be related to this disruption in education.
*See a copy of the letter for individual families. It was customized per child based on his or her needs: Special education plan. You may also see answers to frequently-asked questions provided by the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network: FAQ for families of students with disabilities. A "learning at home guide" may be found, here: ADDitude guide
Will kindergarten registration continue for the 2020-21 school year? Or is that canceled, as well?
Karen Krisch (Marion-Walker Elementary School principal): Yes. Principals and those at central office have began plans for what registration for our kindergarten students – and any new students – will look like within our current environment. A registration event was also held on June 18 at each of the elementary buildings. Planning is also underway for summer school programming, as well as extended school year and how that might be delivered across multiple platforms.
Please visit this link for more information: Kindergarten registration. A registration packet is included, along with other information.
*In the district’s podcast released in March, information is featured about kindergarten registration. Please disregard the dates, as this was conducted just before the state-ordered school closure. However, it still provides valuable information about what young students and their families can expect — in the words of Krisch, school counselor Ashley Hamilton and building secretary Jill Catalano. Please listen, here: Red Raiders Podcast: K-Registration
With school closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, how can students retrieve belongings left in school before the closure?
Aaron Barto (director of physical plant): Planning is in the works for the return of personal items in late May or June post the stay-at-home order. We are working on getting personal protective equipment for staff. By law, should anyone enter our buildings that could have coronavirus, our staff must be fully protected to engage in the cleaning process. The principals are also working to get essential items out to students – and we are abiding by the governor’s orders. As soon as that stay-at-home order is lifted, we can have more flexibility with options. So far, as previously done, they will accept requests to arrange pickup for items necessary for student health or are otherwise urgent.
- To see the plan at Bellefonte Area High School, visit this link: BAHS item pickup/drop off
- To see the plan at Bellefonte Area Middle School, visit this link: BAMS locker clean-out
- Elementary schools will operate the pick-up schedule starting May 26 based on grade level and teacher. Faculty and staff will run labeled bags of belongings to each car.
Learn more about how the fourth-grade class can take home a bluebird nesting box kit during item retrieval: Nesting boxes
*Further communication will be relayed at the building level through principals. There is also a plan in the works for item drop-off back to school, such as textbooks, Chrombooks, calculators and more. This is set for the last two weeks of school in June.
Many events have been canceled during this time, such as field trips and athletics activities. Will they be rescheduled?
Dr. Saylor: We will attempt to reschedule any events we can once the current health situation is behind us and/or as we receive additional guidance. This, however, is not guaranteed. With the current state-ordered closure lasting through the end of the school year, a team of administrators are working to hold events such as graduation, the awards ceremony and prom through virtual or other means.
Please check back for details regarding athletics as we are working to learn and provide more information.
*PIAA released a statement on March 16. See here for more: PIAA Statement. PIAA released another statement March 30: PIAA statement, March 30. Its latest statement about season cancelations can be found, here: PIAA Statement, April 9
There are several international trips in the works through the district’s global education program and which use EF Tours as the facilitator. The next is coming up the summer of 2020 to France and Spain, in addition to a trip to the UK. Where do those trips stand?
Karen Krisch (global learning coordinator): Dr. Saylor has canceled our trip to the UK in July. We had 12 students and three parents enrolled, thus the cancelation rather than postponement. Our trip to France and Spain scheduled for June has been postponed until summer of 2021, barring any safety concerns. We have 42 students enrolled in this trip. All 2021-22 trips are still scheduled and will be looked at as we move into the late spring of 2021. Parents and students have a variety of options for the postponed trip should they not want to go in June of 2021 and for the canceled trip to the UK. These options were developed by EF Tours prior to the pandemic and were frozen in place as options for our students out to 110 days before the scheduled 2021 trips.
Trips and excursions are at the discretion of the superintendent. Per policy 121.2, trips and excursions may be altered or canceled in response to declared states of emergency, terror alerts, other safety concerns and/or information issued by the Department of Homeland Security that could impact the trip and more.
*Please see Krisch’s presentation to the school board on April 21 regarding international travel: International travel presentation. She elaborates on the district’s global education and international plan, student eligibility to attend intentional trips, those trips that are canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, policy with EF Tours, cancelation and refund policy, and more. You may also find a detailed PowerPoint presentation, here: International travel slideshow. In the same meeting, Dr. Saylor also further elaborates on her decision to cancel or postpone this summer’s international school trips to Europe. Additional updates may be found, here: International trip update, May 7
With the remainder of sports seasons canceled for the 2019-20 school year, how will this impact sports at Bellefonte Area? How about student-athletes, such as their eligibility to receive honors such a varsity letter and/or other accolades, and the potential of college recruitment?
Deb Moore (athletic director): I do not know at this time as the coaches and I will meet to discuss this more. Also, while it's different, recruiting is still going on -- just through emails and phone calls.
What are sanitation plans for district buildings and grounds?
Aaron Barto (director of physical plant): The custodial staff cleans and disinfects on a daily basis, plus we instituted a mid-day disinfection of door knobs and other high-touch surfaces. Essential personnel will be in to do deep cleaning and disinfecting (while schools are closed). The same goes for the second shift along with restroom cleaning and disinfecting.
As district buildings reopen, they will, however, be closed to the community on Fridays starting June 12 during the summer. This will allow extra time for cleaning and disinfecting.
Many students rely on school for good and healthy breakfast and lunch options. Is the district doing anything to help provide families and students with meals during the closure?
Laura Frye (food service director): Yes, the district is working with the YMCA of Centre County that will provide 'drop and go' meals with sites around the Bellefonte Area community. During the month of May, about 4,400 meals were served at sites across the district. Every 'drop and go' site must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which is the overseer of the program from the United States Department of Agriculture. Other services are in the works as the district and other local agencies work to get approval from the state.
*Visit this link for more information about meal program options: Meal options. The district's professional staff association, according to co-Presidents Jen Carroll and Jon Clark, raised more than $2,100 for the YMCA's food programs that benefit local students.
Is there any legislation in place to help districts make decisions during this state-mandated school closure?
Pedro Rivera (PA Department of Edcuation secretary): (On March 27), Gov. (Tom) Wolf signed an emergency school code bill. The department was pleased to contribute to this bipartisan initiative, which passed both chambers unanimously. This legislation, now Act 13 of 2020, provides a basis for fiscal stabilization for the education community, protects our educator workforce, allows this year’s cohort of student teachers to bypass a 12-week training requirement and pauses other statutory provisions that are unworkable amid emergency response efforts. While the governor and I had previously committed that no school would be penalized for an inability to meet the 180 instructional day requirement, Act 13 officially waives this requirement for the 2019-20 school year.
The department is now engaged in an ambitious endeavor to establish a user-friendly process for guiding, receiving, reviewing and responding to any additional requests for waivers that an LEA may want to submit consistent with provisions of Act 13. The department will publish detailed guidance, including additional information on waiver relief, in the coming days. Speaking of guidance, we updated information and guidance on federal programs, early learning and essential personnel on our website.
One of our most significant milestones was working alongside our 29 intermediate units and three regional PaTTANs to develop resources and line up technical assistance opportunities to help (schools) create and implement Continuity of Education plans.
What should families know to help lessen the weight on their shoulders during this unpresidented time, especially during the school closure?
Dr. Saylor: We want everyone to know that kids are going to be OK. And our teachers are phenomenal. Once we get back to whatever the new normal is, our teachers will make sure the kids enter where they are and move them to where they need to be. We, in education, have absolutely no doubts about that. We encourage parents to continue to read with their children, play games with their children and spend time talking. Having that engagement and interaction – our children will rebound. We want to make sure we have methods in place that they (students) don’t have a huge slide, so to review what they’re already beginning to understand. And we know it’s going to be OK. We have 100 percent faith in that. What we’re most concerned about is the anxiety this is creating on student and families. That’s why we sent out that sentiment earlier in the week, because we understand.
*See letter to families, here: Parent letter. You may also see district features about ways teachers are connecting with students and other feelgood stories during this time: District news features during closure
What other resources are available?
*Information compiled by social worker Maria McClatchey from CIU-10: Family and community resources
- Health care
- Please note that coronavirus testing is not available at CVIM at this time
- CVIM: "If you have a fever, cough, any respiratory symptoms, have traveled internationally or domestically in the last 14 days or have had possible contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19, please reschedule your appointment."
- Mental health
- Safe2Say Something hotline is still open. Learn more, here: Safe2Say
- Supporting you child and their emotions
- Includes resources about how to speak with your child about the coronavirus pandemic
*You may also find the district's April podcast with school social workers Sara Mays and Maria McClatchey, here: Resources podcast. They provide tips and resources available to help families and individuals manage stress, anxiety and other emotions at this unprecedented time. They also provide more answers to frequently-asked questions in this Q&A: Resources Q&A
- Health care