In-school classes will resume as planned Monday at the Homer-Center School district, following a two-week closing of the elementary and high school buildings in the district’s compliance with state regulations to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

At the school board’s non-voting planning meeting Thursday, District Superintendent Curt Whitesel said the district would keep the buildings closed for a week following the winter break and that all students would take at-home online classes from Jan. 4 to 8.

Under new restrictions imposed by the state, the district will close either school if the number of positive cases reaches two, and students will take at-home classes for at least three days.

Board President Michael Bertig said Homer-Center students are urged to voluntary stay home.

“We are continuing to strongly encourage any student who is comfortable learning from home to please do so,” he said.

Today, the district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that one elementary school teacher was confirmed with the virus Nov. 19 and one high school student tested positive on Nov. 25.

The return of students, as assigned, to their school classrooms Monday also marks the return of student athletes to their team practices and others students to their after-school clubs or other activities.

Basketball players will be required to wear masks and will be excused only for a medical reason explained in a note from a doctor.

Because teams are required to hold at least 15 practice sessions before competing, and because other schools in the Heritage Conference have set different dates for resuming practices, some scheduled games may be postponed.

At least at the start of the season, games will be played in front of empty bleachers, High School Principal Jody Rainey said. Attendance at indoor events is limited to 10 percent of capacity.

“For us it’s going to be about 60 people,” Rainey said. “You’ve got the players on both teams, you’ve got game officials, you’ve got game staff. You’re pushing 50 people at that point, so you might have only 10 (fans).

“The good news is, unlike football, you’re waiting for the National Federation cameras. We tested them the last few volleyball games and they’re operational,” he said. “So if push comes to shove and we have to broadcast using our own means, we can do so in the gyms. So people can watch the games remotely through National Federation.”

At a brief reorganization session before the planning meeting, the board unanimously re-elected Michael Bertig as board president for 2021 and elected Christa Pontani-Palmer as vice president on a vote of 8 to 1. Director James McLoughlin voted to retain current vice president Vicki Smith.

The board set the schedule for monthly meetings for the Academic Committee, the Buildings & Grounds Committee and the full board for planning and business sessions for the first half of 2021. Voting meetings will begin at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except on the fourth Thursday in April and June. All but the Buildings & Grounds meetings will be held online.

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.