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Meeting via Zoom in its first workshop of the new year, the Tussey Mountain school board Monday evening learned that district students have returned to a hybrid school schedule, following the Christmas and New Years’ holidays.

School district officials explained that until further notice, elementary, middle school and high school students will alternate classes with one-half taking part in in-school instruction and the other half virtually.

It was noted that the rotating in-person and virtual instructional schedule would remain in effect until COVID-19 restrictions have eased and the level of community and countywide COVID transmission levels have subsided. As in the past, the school district will continue to follow 6-feet distancing requirements as well as mask-wearing.

In November, COVID-19 cases surged in Bedford County, with school districts adjusting their instruction in accordance with mandates set by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The Tussey district closely monitored county, state and federal data, adjusting the district’s actions accordingly. Initial reports suggest the COVID-19 infection rate is beginning to fall in Bedford County.

At Tussey, groups of students are divided with half of them taking part in virtual learning while the other half attends in-class instructional sessions, closely following state COVID-19 guidelines.

Responding to a question from board member Chad Myers, district superintendent Dr. Jerry Shoemake pointed out that all athletes are in one group and not scattered into other groups. By dividing in-class students into alternating groups the number of students in the buildings is reduced, added Shoemake.

Late last month, the Tussey board agreed to continue sports as well as after-school activities. The district had been in a virtual mode since Nov. 17.

The board may consider refinancing a debt service associated with a 2015-16 school district buildings remodeling project in hopes of saving money but reducing the interest rate.

Audre Bear, public finance investment banking director with Piper/Sandler of Camp Hill, outlined several scenarios which the board will review for possible future approval. Briefly, Bear noted that currently interest rates are low and, if approved, refinancing the debt service would result in considerable savings.

Turning to other matters during the agenda-setting session, school board members learned that the district ended the 2019-20 school year with revenues exceeding expenditures totaling $699,761.24. The figure will play an important role in calculating the district 2021-22 budget.

When the school board meets next Monday for its regular voting session it will be asked to approve a resolution specifying the board will not raise the rate of any tax more than its Act 1 index.

There was a brief discussion concerning the pros and cons of approving the resolution and the impact the action would have on the district should a major expenditure arise.

Asked about the specifics of the new budget, board secretary Liza Rankin answered that the budget committee continues to work on the fiscal blueprint, adding that current budget figures “are very preliminary.”

Rankin went on to explain that because the board is expected to approve a motion next week not to raise the rate of taxes beyond the index, the district will have until May to finalize the 2021-22 budget.

The board learned that a proposed chimney project at the elementary center will be performed in-house this summer. The district maintenance work is necessary because no bids were received to do the job.

The board also learned that a major geothermo water leak occurred at the elementary school, which is keeping district maintenance personnel busy trying to find the source of the leak. That work was still in progress.

The following 2021 school district committees were announced:

• Administrative liaison, budget, finance and personnel: Harry Watkins, John Baughman and Jimmy Hodge.

• Athletics and activities: Chad Myers, Adam Baker and Watkins.

• General services: Myers, Baker and Watkins.

• Policy and curriculum: Brenda Folk, Roy McCabe and Baughman.

The board will also be asked to act on the following motions:

• Approve the purchase and production of a Zoomsical musical production of “Hans Christian Anderson-Online Edition” by Frank Loesser at a cost not to exceed $1,000.

• Accept the November 2020 activity fund report showing a cumulative balance of $80,431.01 and a November 2020 athletic fund report reflecting a cumulative balance of $3,506.53.

• Approve a list of persons and positions for 2020-21.

• Approve three Tussey students who will participate via Zoom in the District Vocal Jazz Festival on Jan. 22.

• Approve three students who will take part in the District Chorus Festival on Jan. 28 via Zoom.

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