Meeting in its monthly work session Monday evening, Tussey Mountain School Board members listened to an update about the opening of school for 2020-21 as educators and the administration closely adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

Dr. Jerry Shoemake told board members the Aug. 24 return to school for district students “went off very well,” adding that 170 students, K-12, elected to be educated online while the rest of the students are attending in-class sessions.

It was noted that surveys were sent to parents earlier, asking how they wanted to see their children educated during the 2020-21 school year with 84% favoring in-person instruction.

When the directors meet next Monday night in their general session, they will act on a series of revisions to policies, some of which are necessary to comply with COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.

Shoemake explained that the update of district policies is in line with the recommendation of the Pennsylvania School Board Association and are required every three years.

“Most of the revisions are minimal in nature and geared toward COVID-19 and online learning,” the district administrator pointed out.

Among the policy revisions include lesson planning, immunizations and communicable diseases, health examinations/screenings, telework, physical examinations and the retiring of the alternative education policy (disruptive youth) which the district no longer uses.

The board will also act on the adoption of a policy that deals with attendance and tardiness as well as revisions to a policy related to job related expenses. All the policy changes were recommended by the policy and curriculum committee, noted Shoemake.

Also, in response to the COVID-19 guidelines, the board will approve revisions to the district’s health and safety plan as recommended by the district administration. The revisions are necessary because of a new directive from the state Department of Education and the state Department of Health.

Unsure of the future course of the pandemic, the board will authorize Shoemake to make any necessary changes to the Health and Safety Plan subject to ongoing state directive changes.

Responding to the updated federal CARES Act which offers the opportunity for district employees to defer Social Security payroll taxes, the board decided not to participate. The payroll tax deferral covered the period of Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.

“We felt that the tax deferral offer was not prudent,” said Shoemake. Added district manager and board secretary Lisa Rankin, “It would be a bookkeeping nightmare.”

Turning to budget matters the board is scheduled to pass a revised resolution for real estate tax installment payments for the tax year 2020.

Also, on the agenda for next week are motions to:

--accept a letter of resignation from Martha Oldham as part-time cleaner at the Tussey Mountain Elementary building effective Aug. 24, 2020.

--appoint Denelle Diehl as Title IX coordinator and compliance officer which is required by the new Title IX regulations.

--learned that the “Student of the Month” ceremonies, usually held prior to board meetings, will take place in the classroom and the names of students posted on bulletin boards. The change is because of the COVID-19 situation.

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