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The look of the education system in the Indiana Area School District when school bells ring – or when Google classroom apps pop open – on Sept. 8 was left as undefined this evening as it was in June, as school officials said some time will be needed for the administration to yet again devise a plan in response to a change in state guidelines.

Barely eight hours after Gov. Tom Wolf issued recommendations for Pennsylvania schools’ use of in-person or online learning for reopening, now based on trends in COVID-19 cases and positive testing in each county, District Superintendent Michael Vuckovich told board members and an online viewing audience numbering about 60 that his team will work again to answer state requirements.

Under Wolf’s guidance, Indiana County is statistically categorized as an area of moderate community transmission of coronavirus. The recommendation, short of a mandate, is for schools to offer at least half-time virtual learning for all students.

Vuckovich reiterated, as he had mentioned in a digital message to parents earlier Monday afternoon through email, social media and the district website, that he had sympathy and empathy for all whose own plans for the school year have been upset by the latest change.

The school board voted to allow students to continue their voluntary preparation for fall extracurricular activities and sports, with the football program’s preconditioning and exercise programs that already are under way, held as the example of the limit on what school officials may allow. The district’s official opening of football practice has formally been delayed by orders from Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), the fate of the fall schedule of interscholastic competition for football and other teams was left in limbo and not the subject of discussion.

The certain cancellation of fall sports, as reported in an earlier story on The Indiana Gazette Online based on a school board member’s view of longstanding state reopening guidelines, was not discussed and would only be enacted after further specific advice from PIAA and the Wolf Administration, Vuckovich told the Gazette following the board meeting.

In other business, the board voted to open the district’s pre-kindergarten program to children whose families live outside the Indiana Area School District Boundaries. Non-resident enrollment would be allowed after Aug. 21 if seats in the pre-K program remain unfilled. The move, permitted under state school law, would enable Indiana to maintain its expected level of state funding for district operation.

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.