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Bellefonte schools see uptick in virus cases

BELLEFONTE — With COVID-19 numbers on the rise in Bellefonte and the Centre County region, the Bellefonte Area School District continues to hold in-person classes, though that could change at a moment’s notice, according to an email sent Monday.

Bellefonte Area School District superintendent Tammie Burnaford sent her weekly update to families, parents and students. In it, she noted the rise in cases.

“We are continuing to see an uptick in cases in the district, as well as in the county and in the state,” Burnaford said in the email. “Centre County is still in the substantial rate of transmission, according to the PA Department of Health, as both the number of cases and the positivity rate are on the rise in Centre County.”

In the email, Burnford said that the district received notification of 13 new cases in the district. They are:

— A Bellefonte Elementary student tested positive for the coronavirus. The student was in school while infectious, so the case does count by PDE guidelines, Burnaford said. The school worked on the contact tracing and the parents of all students who may have been close contacts were notified last Monday.

— A Pleasant Gap staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, Burnaford said. The staff member was not in school while infectious, so the case does not count by PDE guidelines, she said. No contact tracing was necessary.

— Two Marion-Walker staff members tested positive for the coronavirus, Burnaford said. Both staff members were physically present while infectious, and the cases count by PDE guidelines. These staff members were tested a few days apart and had been in close contact with each other. This could be our first known transmission within our schools, she said, noting that is difficult to determine completely. The staff members had very little contact with students, so no contact tracing applied for students, she said.

— A Marion Walker student tested positive for the coronavirus. This student was present while infectious, and the case counts by PDE guidelines. Karen Krisch notified parents of all students who may have been close contacts Sunday.

In the email, Burnaford said that the rest of the new, known district cases involve high school students — all student cases.

According to Burnaford, the district could be forced to move to remote learning at anytime.

“Upon the recommendations of the DOH, we could be required to close schools if an outbreak occurs. This could curtail any and all school activities as well,” Burnaford said in the email.

The spring sports season has just begun and Bellefonte played host to its first track and field meet since 1992.

The email did not give any new details about the district’s graduation plans for the Class of 2021 or a Senior Ball.

She asked that parents, families and students continue to follow district protocol.

“We must continue to practice safety by wearing masks and social distancing,” Burnaford said. “We are also asking parents to please keep their children home from school if they have COVID-like symptoms or may have been exposed to a person who has COVID. We absolutely must be as vigilant as always.”

School will be closed for scheduled days off on Thursday, April 1, Friday, April 2 and Monday, April 5.

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

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