That light at the end of the tunnel could be the fluorescent lights of the Homer-Center High School cafeteria, if the tunnel happens to be a narrow view of webcams and iPhones showing people on the online Zoom meeting app.

Homer-Center’s school directors next month will trade their dining room tables and laptops for the friendly, and spacious, confines of the school dining hall to conduct business in person for the first time since February 2020.

Although the schools welcomed students back to classrooms in September for actual rather than virtual learning, on a limited basis, board members have maintained the safety of full online gathering for 13 months.

Superintendent Curt Whitesel said Thursday that the board members would hold any necessary executive session in another location in the school before convening with faculty, staff, student and district resident spectators in the cafeteria on April 15.

“I think we accomplish more in person than when we are virtual,” Whitesel said.

Board member Vicki Smith for many months has led the call for the board to resume in-person meetings.

In other business Thursday, the board:

• Revised the school calendar to hold classes today as the make-up day for classes lost due to snow on Feb. 22.

• Approved the 2021-22 school calendar designating Aug. 23 as the first day for teachers, Aug. 26 as the first day for students, June 2, 2022, as the last day of classes and June 3, 2022, as the last work day for teachers.

• Scheduled high school graduation for 11 a.m. on June 5. If the weather is bad, commencement will be rescheduled for the evening of June 6, 7, 8 or 9, when weather allows.

• Agreed to purchase signage for the interior of the senior high school at a cost of $8,719.50, funded by a $5,000 grant and $3,719.50 of local money. The signs would direct visitors to classrooms, offices, exits and other locations in the building.

The board opted out of a proposed signage program that would have included the outdoor school grounds at a total cost of more than $26,000.

• Saluted student achievers, including Genevieve Spaid, the Homer City Kiwanis Club Senior of the Month; 12th-grader LaVada Walbeck, the Wildcat Recognition Award recipient for the senior high; first-grader Savannah Kunkle, the elementary Wildcat Recognition Award recipient; and student musicians Emily Marshall, Graceann Bush and Madison Succheralli, who were introduced by band director Jon Stolarz as qualifiers for the PEMA All-State Band this year. No other school in the region has three students in the state band, Stolarz said, and never has Homer-Center send more than two students in one year to the highest level of performance in Pennsylvania.

High School Principal Jody Rainey commended the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams for seasons that took them into the PIAA District 6 playoffs.

• Accepted the resignation of Food Service Director Autumn Bluto, effective March 31. Board President Michael Bertig thanked Bluto for offering to work beyond her announced end date to keep the cafeteria running until the she could be replaced.

The directors then hired Brian Rathgeb as food service director at an annual salary of $54,000, prorated to the number of days worked this school year. He will start April 7.

• Approved the senior band members trip to Cleveland and Erie from May 13 to 15 at no cost to the district.

• Approved the sixth-grade class trip to Gettysburg and Indian Echo Taverns on May 5 and 6 at no cost to the district.

• Approved teacher Brad Adams and students to attend the Heritage Conference Robotics Competition April 23 at United High School at no cost to the district.

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the county courthouse; Indiana Area and Homer-Center schools; Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, Center and Burrell; and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.