FRANCONIA — For the second year in a row, the Indian Valley Middle School Select Choir is the winner of radio station B101's Christmas Choir Competition in the kindergarten through eighth grade category.
What made this year's win even more special, Superintendent Frank Gallagher told the Souderton Area School Board at its December 17 meeting, is the additional challenge of having to wear masks and remain socially distanced for the performance of "We Need a Little Christmas."
Choir Director Diane Ramage "had to adjust her instructional strategy in order to accomplish this," Gallagher said. "It sounds terrific."
A video was then shown of when the group heard the radio announcement naming them as the winners, followed by the choir's performance being played.
It's been a difficult year because of having to sing through masks while six feet apart, Ramage said in a radio interview posted on the station's Facebook page.
"The whole idea of singing next to somebody, it doesn't happen," she said.
"The fact that we were fortunate enough to be able to have the group together, but still be able to be socially distant and have masks," she said, "it was just so nice to be able to record together and make music together."
The performance was recorded during classes at the school, she said.
"Music is such an important part of our lives and emotionally it helps us to get through things," Ramage said in the B101 interview.
Along with having the performance played on the radio, the winning performance has a $5,000 prize. At least part of that money will go to the school's Angel Tree to help families at the school and in the community, Ramage said.
The Dec. 17 meeting also included approval of the 2021-2022 school year calendar.
"We're hoping that next year we go back to quote, unquote normal," Assistant Superintendent and Director of Human Resources Christopher Hey said while outlining the calendar at the board's Dec. 8 Education-Personnel Committee meeting.
"This year, we obviously had to make modifications to our calendar for the start of the school year," he said.
The calendar for the 2021-2022 year puts the first day of school on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 and the last day, with an early dismissal, on Monday, June 13, 2022.
The school year will again be starting before Labor Day, but instead of being off on the Friday before Labor Day, the schools will be closed the Tuesday after Labor Day for the Rosh Hashanah Jewish holiday, Gallagher said.
"Families will still have that four day weekend over Labor Day that they're used to, but without the Friday off," Hey said.
The calendar includes 177 student days and three professional development days for a total of 180 instructional days, he said.
Three inclement weather make-up days are included in the calendar. The district can also use flexible instructional days, Hey said.
On flexible instructional days, students and staff do not go to school buildings but have remote learning. Flexible instructional days count as an instructional day for the year. On traditional snow days, school is closed and the instructional day has to be made up later in the year.
Tuesday, Dec. 15 of this year was a flexible instructional day; Wednesday, Dec. 16 was a snow day for the Souderton Area School District.