Another victim of the coronavirus is the popular back-to-school rally, held in August by the Bradford Area School District. The rally draws a crowd of 2,000 people, which would not be a feasible option as Pennsylvania officials have set a limit of 250 people for gatherings.

Superintendent Katy Pude shared an update for Bradford Area School District parents and students Tuesday via a video posted to the district website, answering common questions and updating on the many details still currently unknown in regard to the 2020-21 school year.

Pude’s update was announced via the Remind app. She also advised parents that the current reopening plan, announcements and updated information are available on the website, and parents seeking information should start by visiting the site. The plan, as posted, is for the school based on the idea that McKean County will remain in the green phase of Governor Wolf’s pandemic-related reopening plan. For a scenario where the county has reverted to the yellow phase, alternative plans were outlined.

During the video, Pude explains that she would like to “clarify the things we do know and the things we don’t have control over.”

She asked the district’s principals to share the most common questions they are getting from parents, and she made an effort to answer with the information available at this time.

“I don’t have all the answers, I wish I did. Many things can change between now and August,” Pude said.

Pude noted that parents in the district have been asked to submit a “registration” form outlining plans for each child they have attending a district school. The form includes information on whether the student will attend in-school instruction or opt for the district’s online option, whether students will be riding the bus to and from school and any technology the student would need the district to provide if opting for online education.

The deadline for this information is Friday. However, Pude noted that district officials understand that things can change between now and the first day of school. For those families who have to change their answer of online versus in-person education, Pude explained the district is requesting that the decision families commit to by the first day of school is the one they follow for the first nine weeks of the year. There is no option currently for students to attend in-person for part of the week and utilize the online platform for the rest of the week. The choice has to be one approach or the other.

Pude also reminded families that, while cyber charter schools not affiliated with the district advertise they are a “tuition-free” option, the district pays anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 per student for a regular education student and could pay more than $20,000 for special education students for each student enrolled in these schools.

Students who opt for the in-person education will be seeing changes in the classroom, curriculum and cafeteria. First of all, based on the state requirements, students and staff will have to wear masks on the bus to and from school and during the school day. For those with medical conditions, exceptions will be made. Pude noted that the district will work with parents of students who can not wear a mask for a medical reason.

Teachers will be using the Canvas Learning Management platform and creating their own curriculum. This will be used both in the classroom and for the students who opt to pursue online education for the 2020-21 school year.

This prepares students for a situation where the county returns to yellow status, which will require the school to reduce capacity to 50%. At that point, Pude said the students will be divided into two groups and will utilize the online platform from home to a greater extent.

Finally, clear barriers will be installed in the cafeteria so students can still see one another and socialize while social distancing can be put in effect. Masks will not be required in the cafeteria.

Pude also announced that, because the state is prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people, the popular back-to-school rally held each year has been canceled.

“We are looking at alternatives to that, which will engage students and get them excited for school,” she said.

Open houses are also not on the agenda before school opens, and parents will not be permitted to walk students to their classrooms on the first day of school.

Pude explained that cleaning efforts will be increased, masks will be provided to students and staff if they remain a requirement in August and efforts are underway to train staff.

“We are very committed that we open in a safe way, we will follow all of the guidelines,” Pude said. “We have no control over what the law will be in August and/or what this virus will look like in Bradford.

“We love our kids, we miss our kids. We would love to have them all back, but we are not comfortable doing that unless it’s in the safest way possible.”