With masks mandated in all school district jobs across the state, most schools’ goal for the 2021-22 school year is to keep their doors open and continue face-to-face learning. 

Superintendent Tammie Burnaford stated during Tuesday night’s Bellefonte school board meeting that the mask mandate appeared to be working. Burnaford stated that compared to other districts in Centre County, BASD has “far less quarantine.” Bellefonte, she claims, has kept its COVID-19 jobs case count in the single digits. 

Many of our cases are if someone in the home is sick,” Burnford explained. She credited parents for helping to keep case counts low. 

 “Parents have done a phenomenal job of keeping their kids home if they are sick,” Burnaford said. “They have done a great job of notifying us as soon as they possibly know. Sometimes that lags a day or two or three, particularly on weekends. School principals are back to doing what they did last year — contact tracing as soon as we know. They’re taking their time to make sure that’s done and done well.” 

According to Burnaford, the district implements the Department of Health’s mask mandate and other mitigating initiatives. To reduce the number of pupils congregating in big groups, social distancing activities are necessary. 

Our elementary schools have gone back to eating in their classrooms. To maintain that six feet of distance, we have removed some extra furniture from classrooms … everywhere is a minimum of three feet,” Burnaford said.  Just like last year, the district is recommending frequent hand washing. The schools also undergo frequent cleaning and sanitizing. 

 “I have received a list of things we should be doing off of Pennsylvania Department of Education and it was gratifying to know that we’re doing many of the things we should, specifically to each building,” Burnaford said.  Burnaford said that the key to keeping schools open is to keeping COVID-19 case counts under control. 

 “As soon as we get cases, we react to them,” Burnaford said. The district is sending updates to parents every Friday and Monday, she said. 

 “Again, it’s commending the parents and commending the students of this district,” Burnaford said. “It’s what kept us going last year and it’s what we have done extremely well going into this year. Our teachers are working hard and our principals are working hard to make sure that we’re providing as much safety as we possibly can.” 

The gathering on Tuesday night was held in a cordial atmosphere. Unlike earlier sessions, which drew enormous crowds of anti-masking parents, there was minimal public comment this time, and the meeting was adjourned after only 58 minutes. 

The Bellefonte school board will meet again on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. Masks are necessary for the meeting, held in person at the Bellefonte Area Middle School cafeteria. The meeting is also being webcast live on Zoom on the district’s website. Those who desire to speak through Zoom must first register. 

Source:  Lock Haven Express