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BASD: No cases of COVID-19

BELLEFONTE — In the Bellefonte Area School District, it’s business as usual.

Just three weeks into the 2020-21 school year and the district is still having face-to-face instruction in the classroom. The district also reports zero cases of COVID-19, which has enabled administrators to keep the doors open.

“I’m pleased to report that our families are doing a wonderful job supporting us. Our kids are coming to school with masks on,” said interim superintendent Tammie Burnaford. “They’re (doing) the safe practices that we had in our health and safety plan. To this point, as I sit here tonight, we still have zero cases in our schools — no students, so staff. There have been staff tested, there have been some students tested, but they’ve all tested negative. We’re doing all the right things.”

Bellefonte is one of three Centre County schools that has not had a positive test. In addition to BASD, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola have not had any positive tests. The State College Area School District is fully remote and has had three positive tests among students. Wingate Elementary in the Bald Eagle Area School District has been closed for the past several days after a staff member and student tested positive for the virus. BEA’s other schools have remained opened, however.

Cases in Centre County continue to skyrocket. On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 195 new cases in the county, pushing the total to 2,031. The 195 cases was the county’s second highest single-day total. However, most of the cases are in the State College and University Park zip codes. As of Tuesday, the DOH reported 94 cases in Bellefonte’s 16823 zip code — 84 confirmed and 10 probable.

In the past several days, however, there have only been a few cases in the 16823 zip code, Burnaford said.

“We’ve had two cases in the last five days. One in 16823, one in 16841. I remind you that they may not even be in our town; they may be in the other (school) districts. That’s two cases in five days. That’s the minimum number since I’ve started tracing way back in August. My hope is that all those things we are doing are really, really working well and we can continue to keep the virus out of our schools and keep our schools open,” Burnaford said.

Although Bellefonte isn’t faced with switching to remote learning just yet, Burnaford pointed out that the district is ready for the switch, if needed.

“If we have to go to virtual learning, we are not in the same place as we were last spring. We are in a much better place than we were last spring,” she noted.

In addition to all students being equipped with Chromebooks, the district has purchased some “MiFis,” which is wireless router that acts as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

Because Centre County is in the “substantial” range as the virus spreads, Burnaford and other county superintendents have weekly conference calls with the DOH and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, she said.

For now, though, Bellefonte is keeping its doors open. BASD board president Jon Guizar urged parents to keep their children home if they are feeling under the weather.

“I really appreciate parents doing everything that they’re doing. If you have any doubt at all, just keep your child home,” Guizar said. “It’s not an attendance issue. It’s the responsible thing to do. Just play it safe.”

Burnaford said that the district has relaxed its attendance policies due to COVID-19.

“Keeping (students) home when they’re sick is the best thing they can do. We have relaxed all of our attendance rules for that,” Burnaford said. “There’s no fear of repercussions if your child is home sick. It is what it is at this point.”

The Bellefonte school board will meet again at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6. The meeting is closed to the public but will be streamed live on the district’s YouTube channel.

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