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Bellefonte making plans for ‘virtual’ graduation

Board to waive district’s graduation requirements

BELLEFONTE — In a somewhat surprising move, the Bellefonte Area School District announced Tuesday night that it is preparing for a virtual graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020.

That announcement came during Dr. Michelle Saylor’s superintendent report, as the board met via Zoom to address a plethora of topics dealing with the closure of schools due to the COVID-19.

“Right now, with the latest guidance, we’re working on a virtual graduation ceremony,” Saylor said. “The high school is working with their team. We want to make sure we have a memorable and beautiful experience for our seniors.”

Graduation is scheduled for Monday, June 8, according to the district website.

Saylor said that she make a recommendation at the board’s next meeting that the board waive district graduation requirements to align with the state. This would waive the fourth year of social studies and mathematics as well as electives in driver’s ed. Leniency will be granted with health and PE as well as other elective credits.

The total number of credits — 25 — would also be waived. Bellefonte would follow the state’s requirements for 21 credits as well as four years of English. If a student was scheduled to take an elective course in the fourth marking period, that will serve as a fulfilled requirement.

Additionally, no senior will be penalized for not being able to meet requirements due to the mandated closure. The high school will be working with individual students who have specific circumstances that need to be addressed. They are working on a plan to ensure students meet the minimum state requirements.

Saylor also said that scholarships and academic awards will still be awarded. Students interested in applying for a scholarship can do so online at www.basd.net.

“That will probably be a virtual ceremony as well,” Saylor said.

The prom and Senior Ball have been postponed. The senior trip has been canceled.

Saylor also talked in depth about the district’s Continuity of Education Plan, which was submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on April 2 and is posted on the district’s website.

According to Saylor, the plan did not include the work that social workers and counselors have been undertaking.

“That’s not a part of the official plan, but I feel that it’s very important … they continue to reach out to our families to establish working hours where families can contact them and be available to our students,” Saylor noted.

As far as mental health and family support is concerned, Saylor said that the district’s social workers continue to connect parents and students who are at risk or who may additional help. There are office hours being established, she said, for anyone who needs their services or simply needs to speak with them.

Saylor talked about the district’s policy regarding grades. Grades for the third marking period are currently being compiled.

“Logistically, it’s a little bit more complicated than normal. We won’t be able to send out report cards, but parents will be made aware when those grades are available in the portal. Parents will be able to view them at that time,” Saylor said.

No student will receive a grade lower than 60 percent for the third marking period.

Also on Tuesday, the district released the results of a survey about technology. A total of 1,844 parents responded to the survey. After the district removed duplicate responses, there were a total of 1,313 valid responses representing 2,117 students across the district. The district’s current enrollment is 2,679. That gives the district a 78.7 percent response rate.

According to the survey, 97 percent of students have internet access. Three percent do not have. A total of 96 percent have internet access while 97 have WiFi access.

Saylor noted that the data does not take into consideration whether or not multiple students would be able to stream video or engage in virtual meetings at the same time. The surveys also did not indicate if access is currently limited to cell/smart phone access, mifi, satellite or broadband, all which can provide varying degrees of stability.

Saylor said that 450 parents have completed the request for a Chromebook for their child. A method to distribute Chromebooks has not been determined.

The board will meet again via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21.

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