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Bellefonte plans graduation at Rogers Stadium

BELLEFONTE — Bellefonte Area High School’s Class of 2021 already had a graduation date.

Now, it has a location.

For the first time since Rogers Stadium was renovated, the district is planning for a graduation ceremony at the stadium. This comes following a survey that was sent to parents last week.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, high school principal Michael Fedisson announced that Bellefonte is planning for an outdoor graduation ceremony at the stadium — something that hasn’t happened since the Class of 2016 celebrated on the natural grass.

“It seems like most people want to have a more traditional graduation,” Fedisson explained. “At this point, the stadium capacity is at a 50 percent limit. I think we’re going to get (around) four to six tickets per graduate.”

Graduation ceremonies are slated for Thursday, June 3 with a rain date of Friday, June 4.

There are 229 seniors in the Class of 2021. With the staff and administrators, Fedisson said, there will be around 250 people before ticketing.

“We feel pretty confident in that number of four to six tickets,” Fedisson said. “Most families seem to be appreciative of that. Obviously, we wish we could have more.”

Capacity at Rogers Stadium is around 3,000. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently eased restrictions for outdoor gatherings, capping venues at 50 percent capacity.

According to Fedisson, there is a segment of the Class of 2021 that does not want to take part in a traditional graduation ceremony. For the students who have been fully remote during the 2020-21 school year, the drive-through option will be available.

“Our plan is to have the drive through portion as well as the ceremony in the evening … we sort of re-invented the wheel last year and we sort of have to do it again,” Fedisson said.

Fedisson also touched on several other senior activities such as the day trip to Hersheypark, the all-night party, a senior video, a senior picnic at Bald Eagle State Park and the traditional awards ceremony. Those are expected to proceed with masking and social distancing in effect. Families will not be able to attend the awards ceremony, which is typically held indoors. According to Gov. Wolf’s guidelines, indoor capacity is capped at 25 percent.

One event that appears to be lost is the Senior Ball.

“I’ll address the elephant in the room,” Fedisson said. “The sticking point is prom … I’m trying to get over the hurdle of how do you get 300 students to dance six feet apart?”

According to Fedisson, the high school had an outdoor venue booked for prom. However, at that point, capacity was capped at 15 percent. The school district canceled the venue as to not lose the deposit.

“I’ve been trying to talk to some of the other local districts to see what they’re doing and how they plan to social distance a dance. I’m not finding very many answers. All I’m finding is that we’re going to social distance and we’re going to wear masks. I don’t know what that means,” Fedisson said.

BASD board president Jon Guizar asked Fedisson if he had heard from families in regard to prom.

“Are you getting feedback,” Guizar asked, “from parents and students on what they’d like to see as options, especially for the situation of prom?”

“I don’t believe our survey had much to do about prom,” Fedisson said. “We’ve had individual responses from families. I tend to pose the same question as to what does a socially-distanced prom look like? I don’t get much as far as suggestions. I think some students very much want to have that event … I think there are some that have resigned themselves to the fact that it’s not a possibility.”

Board member Julie Fitzgerald asked if Bellefonte was the only school in Centre County not having a prom.

She said: “Is that accurate?”

BASD superintendent Tammie Burnaford said that “some of them do not have confirmed dates, so that was not an accurate statement.”

“Nobody has any firm plans,” Burnaford continued.

However, calls to all of Centre County’s other districts did, in fact, confirm prom dates for the four remaining school districts. Penns Valley is hosting its senior prom on Saturday, May 15 at the high school stadium. Philipsburg-Osceola confirmed the date of Saturday, June 5 at the Elks in Philipsburg and State College Area High School is hosting its senior prom on Saturday, May 22 at Memorial Field in downtown State College. Bald Eagle Area is also hosting prom on Saturday, May 22, though a location could not be confirmed.

The Bellefonte school board will have a regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20. The meeting is closed to the public, but is accessible through the district’s website and C-NET.

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