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Bellefonte school board hears plans for Class of 2021

BELLEFONTE — The Bellefonte Area High School Class of 2021 has been twisting in the wind over the past several months wondering if they would have a Senior Ball, a class trip or a traditional graduation.

At Tuesday night’s Bellefonte school board meeting, superintendent Tammie Burnaford addressed some of those concerns. And while the families, parents and students didn’t get all the answers, they got some.

Burnaford announced that the seniors will have the opportunity to take a day trip to Hersheypark. The trip is tentatively scheduled for Friday, April 30.

“Our senior class advisers have worked with their leadership team of students and they’re going to take a senior class trip to Hersheypark, a one-day trip,” Burnaford explained. “What’s really kind of cool is that Hersheypark is limiting the number of people in the park, so they’ll have a good time and a good day.”

Traditionally, the seniors take an overnight trip somewhere. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2020 did not have its Senior Ball, senior trip or traditional graduation. Instead, the school had a “drive through” graduation.

Burnaford said she felt like the day trip to Hershey Park was a good compromise.

“It avoids overnight stays, it avoids COVID things, it avoids lots of things, but it allows them a little trip as a senior class. We continue to work on ideas and things to help them … we want the best and we want as much as we can possibly do. As restrictions are (lifted) and things, we will continue to evolve what we are doing with our senior class,” Burnaford said.

With graduation just a few months away, Burnaford addressed those concerns as well.

“With the reduction in restrictions in outdoor venues and outdoor events, right now we feel pretty strongly we can have a graduation at the stadium. We feel pretty strongly that it will be a ticketed event. We will have to limit the number of tickets. What those numbers look like, we don’t quite know yet,” Burnaford said.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced the lifting of some COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and other businesses, along with increasing gathering limits for events. Beginning April 4, occupancy limits will be lifted to 25 percent for indoor events and 50 percent for outdoor events, regardless of venue size. There are 229 students in Bellefonte’s Class of 2021. Capacity at Rogers Stadium is at or around 3,000 — without restrictions.

Rogers Stadium has not been used for graduation in several years due to rain, construction and, of course, the pandemic last year.

Finally, Burnaford said that a Senior Ball is still on the table as well.

“There’s been talk of a prom and a ball and those things … nothing has been ruled out, whatsoever. But we also can’t jump (with) both feet in until we know a little bit better what the restrictions are going to be and what the rules are going to be. We’ll follow those rules. They’re planning for every possibility,” Burnaford said.

The four other Centre County schools — Bald Eagle Area (May 22), Penns Valley (May 4), Philipsburg-Osceola (May 14) and State College (May 9) — have already announced dates for their Senior Proms.

Burnaford said she understands the need to know for students, parents and families of the Class of 2021.

“As a parent, you probably want to know all the answers right now and I understand that, but it’s just not possible,” Burnaford said.

The Bellefonte school board will meet again at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 6. That meeting is closed to the public, but is accessible through the district’s website.

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