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BASD board hears report on virtual learning

BELLEFONTE — Although there have been a few cases of COVID-19 in the Bellefonte Area School District, there are no plans for the district to go fully remote, interim superintendent Tammie Burnaford told school board members at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The district has had a total of five cases in three schools — an unnamed elementary school, the middle school and the high school.

Thus far, the district has had just one virtual learning day, Friday, Oct. 9. That day, the middle and high school were closed for deep cleaning after a case of COVID-19 was reported at both locations. Burnaford gave the board a report about just how that day went for staff, students and families.

“I’m pleased to say that it went extremely well. I talked even to the association. They had a large number of students who participated,” Burnaford explained. “They were engaged in the learning all day long at the middle school and high school. They were very pleased in how the day went.”

Burnaford said that prior to the one-day closure, guidelines were put into place.

“Those guidelines, are just — more or less — us working with teachers, telling them our expectations and we also have a parent letter that goes out that explains what remote learning will look like. That plan has been developed by a team of teachers … we worked in collaboration with the association when we developed it. It’s a work in progress, but it is, I think, a really great (set) of guidelines or handbook on how we’ll teach remotely and how we will provide the best instruction that we can.”

According to Burnaford, the Oct. 9 closure served as a “dry run” should the district have to go remote.

“We were able to find out which families have or need internet access. We are using teachers to identify those families … that conversation has started. We have families that need some type of device. We’re working through that,” Burnaford said.

Burnaford lauded teachers for having students prepared for remote learning.

“Our teachers have done a phenomenal job getting kids ready for it. (Students) who didn’t even have internet access had already uploaded assignments to their Chromebooks. They had their Chromebooks at home. It was easy and they could engage. They couldn’t always log in, if they didn’t have internet, but they at least had instruction and activities and things that they could do on that day,” Burnaford said.

Following the closure of schools throughout the Commonwealth in March, teachers had to be re-trained to teach virtually.

“Our teachers have worked endlessly, to be trained to learn how to teach virtually since last spring,” Burnaford said.

Board vice-president Jeff Steiner said that as a parent with a student in the district, he believed things went “relatively seamlessly.”

“I think it was a big improvement over where we were at,” Steiner said.

Burnaford agreed.

“We’re growing, we’re getting better,” Burnaford said. “We’re not perfect yet, but we certainly are in a much better place now than where we were in the spring.”

The Bellefonte school board will meet again at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4. The meeting was moved from its usual Tuesday slot because of Election Day. The meeting is closed to the public but is accessible via Zoom.

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