Concerns about heat in Bellefonte Elementary dominate meeting

BELLEFONTE – Temperatures outside may be falling as the cooler autumn air moves in, but heat proved to be a hot topic at the Bellefonte Area School District board meeting on Wednesday night.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a few members attending spoke about concerns over the heat at Bellefonte Elementary School. The school lacks central air conditioning, so temperatures tend to skyrocket during the early part of the school year. In August and September, temperatures have been recorded at 100 degrees and above in the classrooms and halls of the school, which is located in downtown Bellefonte.

Several board members said that they realize there are issues surrounding the heat at Bellefonte Elementary. With that in mind, the board announced a series of three public meetings slated to take place in 2019 regarding concerns that parents, teachers and administrators have – not only about Bellefonte Elementary, but other elementary schools in the district.

The meetings, dubbed “listening meetings,” will be just that. Board members will be present, but merely to listen in an effort to get a handle on concerns.

“We are just going to take notes, just going to listen to all your concerns,” said Bellefonte Area School District superintendent, Dr. Michelle Saylor. “We aren’t going into this with any set concept.”

Student board representative Halle Mitchell spoke about the heat situation at Bellefonte Elementary.

“As a Bellefonte Elementary graduate, I definitely remember the six years of dealing with that heat … I’m really excited to see the progress the board will be making in a timely manner,” Mitchell said.

Bellefonte Elementary, which is the oldest school in the district, is in dire need of a cooling system. However, board member Jeff Steiner pointed out that all of the elementary schools need work of one type or another.

“Bellefonte Elementary is the most pressing matter at hand,” Steiner said, “but there are other elementary schools with their own issues.”

Dates for the “listening meetings” have not been set, the board said.

“I don’t want to put something in place that the community hasn’t thought about,” said board president Rodney Musser.

Also on Wednesday night’s agenda was the progress at Rogers Stadium. The field turf, bleachers and lights made up Phase One, which is now complete. Next up is Phase Two, which includes restrooms, concession stands, locker rooms, ticket booths and entrances.

The football team, of course, did not play a home game at Rogers Stadium until the final week of the regular season, a 10-9 victory over rival Bald Eagle Area. The inaugural game at Rogers Stadium featured free admission to everyone. Several “home” games were played at Bald Eagle Area and Musser thanked the BEA school district for use of the field while Rogers Stadium was under construction.

“I cannot express the appreciation we have for the people at Bald Eagle,” Musser said.

The district also confirmed a lease with Bellefonte Borough for use of the baseball field at Governor’s Park. The lease runs for 15 years at the cost of $1 per year. The borough can re-evaluate the lease after 12 years. Use of the field at Governor’s Park became necessary when construction at Rogers Stadium consumed the baseball field’s former location. The district is responsible for maintenance at the field during baseball season, which typically runs from March through June.