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Bellefonte students have four options for semester

BELLEFONTE — For students in the Bellefonte Area School District, it’s decision time.

Earlier this week, parents were asked to respond to a survey and choose a learning option for their child. There were four options — full in-person classroom instruction, remote, hybrid and BeLa — for the second semester, which begins on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, interim superintendent Tammie Burnaford announced that as of Monday morning, a total of 96 percent of parents had responded to the survey and made a choice.

“That’s just amazing,” Burnaford said of the response. “Our parents have been so awesome and supporting what we do. They jumped right in and did the survey.”

The survey was necessary, Burnaford said, so teachers could get a better handle on which students would be in class and which ones would be learning remotely.

“We decided that instead of trying to figure out where kids are, where they’re at, starting with the second semester, we’re just going to reset,” Burnaford explained. “We were just going to ask parents again — fill out the survey — ask them what they want.”

Although 96 percent of parents responded, Burnaford said she could not give the board percentages of what options were selected.

“I have not had enough time to get through the numbers to give you exact percentages tonight,” Burnaford explained.

She did say that a plethora of parents — especially at the elementary level — have selected in-person, classroom instruction.

“They see the things we’re doing and that we’re safe. They’re seeing the information that the (Pennsylvania) Department of Health came out with this week that the transmission within elementary schools is very, very low compared to other places,” Burnaford said.

According to Burnaford, the cases that are being reported in the district are “coming from outside our schools, not inside our schools.”

That being said, Burnaford did say that have been “a few more cases” of COVID-19 in the schools, but not enough to force the district to go fully remote. She said is asked how Bellefonte has been able to keep its schools open.

“The reason is this … it is because we are working better as one community against this virus than I ever imagined, to be honest with you. Parents are keeping their kids home when they’re sick. They’re quarantining … they call us the second they have a case in their house. Our principals are working late hours (doing) contact tracing,” Burnaford said.

According to Burnaford, the district has been proactive when it comes to contact tracing and the like.

“We have taken the approach that we are going to jump on those things early and then wait for the Department of Health,” Burnaford said, “because sometimes those calls from the Department of Health … are coming two, three, four, five days later. What we’re trying to do is work with parents and work with our community to keep kids and staff as safe as we possibly can. That has made the difference.”

The Bellefonte school board will meet again at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The board is meeting in person, but the meetings are closed to the public. They are accessible via Zoom.

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