Note to BASD: Enough has been taken from our kids

For area high school students, the 2020-21 school year has been anything but normal.

Masks, social distancing, remote learning, limited extra curricular activities and infrequent closures have become the norm.

As the school year begins to wind down, the Class of 2021 prepares for their final days in high school.

At Bellefonte Area High School, students, parents and families are still waiting to find out if there will be a Senior Ball and a traditional graduation.

The Class of 2020 had none of that. When schools throughout the Commonwealth closed in mid-March, extra curriculars and spring sports were cancelled, as was the Senior Ball. Graduation at Bellefonte was anything but traditional. In June of 2020, students drove up to the high school, picked up their diplomas and posed for a photo on a makeshift stage.

Now, the Class of 2021 wonders if it will have the same fate. While all four other Centre County schools — Bald Eagle Area, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola and Penns Valley — have announced plans for their respective Senior Proms, Bellefonte has not. In the Keystone Central School District, superintendent Jacquelyn Martin has announced that the district will indeed have traditional graduation for seniors in Bucktail and Central Mountain’s Class of 2021.

Bellefonte should follow the leads of the schools in the area.

Superintendent Tammie Burnaford, who recently had the “interim” tag removed from her title, has given little to no indication what plans are in the works for Bellefonte’s Class of 2021.

At a school board meeting on March 23, Burnaford announced that the seniors would get a one-day senior trip to Hersheypark. However, she was vague about the more critical activities.

“There’s been talk of a prom and a ball and those things … nothing has been ruled out, whatsoever,” Burnaford said.

Sorry, but that’s not good enough. A Senior Ball cannot be thrown together overnight. A DJ needs to be hired, gowns need to be purchased, tuxes need to be rented. It isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Burnaford was also vague about graduation plans, even though Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will lift some restrictions beginning on Sunday, April 4. Outdoor events will be at 50 percent capacity, regardless of venue size. Bellefonte has one of the nicest stadiums in Centre County, the newly-renovated Rogers Stadium.

Now is the time to make use of it.

A Senior Ball could easily be held at the stadium. The outdoor event could be held on the field with masking and social distancing in effect. The same goes for graduation. There are 229 students in Bellefonte’s senior class. Give each students two tickets and attendance would be around 700 for graduation. Capacity at Rogers Stadium is around 3,000, so the 700 would be well below Wolf’s 50 percent mandate. Parents could easily distance in the large bleacher area.

As it stands, the Class of 2021 is twisting in the wind.

The students need and deserve a plan. There seems to be no sense of urgency at Bellefonte.

That needs to change.


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