Thank you to everyone that joined us for the April 2020 Council-wide Virtual Roundtable. We had a great meeting and we hope that all of the participants were able to get a lot of good information on how to KEEP SCOUTING and to do so safely.
We said during the presentation that we would share both the slide deck and compile a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Both are below.
Questions and Answers from the April 2020 Council-wide Roundtable
The following questions and answers were compiled from questions asked during and after the roundtable. Questions have been organized by section. Similar questions from the meeting have been merged into a single question where appropriate.
Remember that more detailed information on this information and more is available in The Hub at https://tinyurl.com/uwrl5sf.
Section 1: Summer Camp 2020 (answers pertain to New Birth of Freedom resident and day/twilight camps)
Q: Due to the potential longevity of this pandemic, what is the expectation of being able to hold summer camps?
A: Currently, we plan to hold all of our scheduled summer camp programs as scheduled. All of our camps continue to recruit and/or hire staff and prepare programs and camp facilities. The New Birth of Freedom Council continues to monitor recommendations from local, state, and national entities and will comply with future mandates to keep Scouts, volunteers, and staff safe and healthy. If any changes are needed for the summer schedule, those changes will be communicated to all registered units.
Q: Will the deadline to pay the balance for resident camps or day/twilight camps be extended?
A: Yes. In fact, the deadlines for all of our camps have been extended. Discount payments for all camps have been moved from May 1 to May 15. For more information on the extension please read our post at https://tinyurl.com/s4uk4x8.
Campership applications have also been extended and are now due on April 15. Campership applications should be sent to Todd Weidner at email@example.com.
Q: In the event that summer camps are canceled after full payment has been made, will Scouts be fully refunded?
A: Yes. In the event that a local, state, or federal mandate or a decision is rendered by the executive board to close our camping programs for the summer, full payments will be refunded. We will provide more information on this if a decision to cancel summer programs is reached.
Q: In the event that summer camp sessions are rescheduled, a Scout cannot attend or a Scout’s circumstances have changed due to COVID-19, such as a family member losing a job, or a Scouting family feels unsafe in allowing their Scout to attend camp because of potential future exposure, will Scouts be fully refunded?
A: Final decisions on refunds is determined by the Council Executive Board. For closures in March and April, the board has adopted a policy to provide full refunds. Once a decision is made, whether it is by the board or an outside entity, to operate summer camp as planned, full information on our refund policy will be shared.
Q: Will there be any changes to the requirements for new medical forms for summer camp?
A: At this point, we do not know if the National Council we relax or change this requirement. It is currently being reviewed and there has been no official announcement. We do know that some providers have been willing to fill out health forms by conducting a televisit. Families should check with their provider to see if that is possible. If there are any updates or changes, we will post them at www.newbirthoffreedom.org.
Q: Will there be any new changes to background check clearances for summer camp?
A: No. At this point, leaders should still follow all of the current guidelines for obtaining background checks to attend camp. Pennsylvania State Police and Department of Human Service Clearances are still being conducted online. We are only aware of issues with some volunteers trying to get FBI Clearances since many fingerprinting locations are currently closed. For volunteers that have been PA residents for more than 10 years, the fingerprinting is not required and instead you can fill out a New Birth of Freedom Council Disclosure Statement.
Clearances should be uploaded online while our offices are closed. We are continuing to process both new and updated clearances. Details and links for clearances can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/yy8b692g.
Section 2: Advancement
The National Council has provided a number of great resources on advancement changes as a result of COVID-19. National is maintaining an FAQ page answering questions on advancement and other COVID-19 related challenges at https://www.scouting.org/coronavirus/covid-19-faq/.
Scoutbook allows units to remotely track advancement. This is a great tool available at no cost to families and to unit leaders. The above link shares how to connect Scouts and their families in Scoutbook as well as how to get started with Scoutbook if your unit is not currently using it.
Advancement – Cub Scouts
Q: Can Arrow of Light Scouts that completed all of their requirements, but did not have a crossover ceremony or who have not yet turned in or had their transfer application processed get credit for working on Scout Rank requirements?
A: Yes. Make sure on the transfer youth application the date entered is the date that the Scout should have transferred over and not the date when the actual crossover happens or documentation is submitted. This date will become the Scout’s official date to begin work on the Scout Rank. If this date is not indicated correctly, there could be issues in the future with timing on advancement.
Q: Can Arrow Light Scouts start meeting with their new troops even if they have not completed a transfer youth application?
A: If troops are conducting virtual meetings during the mandated closures, Arrow of Light Scouts may participate in troop meetings as long as they are still registered in Scouting. Most packs register their Arrow of Light Scouts until the crossover. As long as they are still registered with a pack, then they will be fine until their transfer application can be processed.
Q: Can parents sign off on Webelos and Arrow of Light requirements?
A: (From the National FAQ) Yes. Through July 31, 2020, parents and other adults in the Cub Scout’s family, may sign off on Webelos and Arrow of Light requirements. We strongly encourage that parents use the Scouting App or ScoutBook to record completion of their child’s requirements.
Advancement – Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouts
Q: May merit badge requirements or rank requirements be modified?
A: (From the National FAQ) No. All requirements must be completed as written. If meetings or activities are canceled or limited, youth should continue to work on requirements as far as possible. By employing common sense and creative solutions, many requirements–even Scoutmaster conferences–can be fulfilled through videoconferencing or telephone calls.
If a requirement cannot be met, at this time Scouts will have to wait until such a time that they can complete the requirement as written.
Q: For Arrow of Light advancement, parents have been granted the ability to sign off requirements, does that hold true for Scouts BSA parents for things their Scout may have completed at home?
A: A parent cannot sign off on a Scouts BSA requirement the same way that a Cub leader or an Arrow of Light Leader (temporarily). From the Mechanics of Advancement in Scouts BSA section 188.8.131.52 (https://tinyurl.com/sco42j5), “Once a Scout has been tested and signed off by someone approved to do so, the requirement has been met.” Unless the parent is a leader or has been authorized by the unit leader to sign off the requirement they may not do so.
HOWEVER, in Scoutbook, parents can indicate to a unit leader that they feel a requirement has been met. Following this guide (https://tinyurl.com/t3uam7p), parents can indicate the date the requirement was completed and then the unit leader will mark it complete once he or she approves the work. It is not considered signed off until the unit leader approves it. Again, referencing section 184.108.40.206, the unit leader has the authority to deny that the requirement is complete if he or she does not feel the Scout has learned the skill.
Q: How do signatures work for signing blue cards virtually?
A: Units using Scoutbook can easily address merit badge counselor approvals through Scoutbook. Scoutbook has a ton of great resources on how to connect counselors and Scouts. This link for assigning counselors (https://tinyurl.com/rnjz55t) and this guide for counselors (https://tinyurl.com/rbcqgfj) may be helpful.
Q: Can Boards of Review be conducted virtually?
A: Yes. Boards of Review can be conducted virtually for all ranks. There is a great article from Bryan on Scouting that can be referenced at https://tinyurl.com/qnfry8q.
Q: How do we obtain signatures from the Board of Review Committee Members who participate?
A: Signatures are going to be a little tricky with current measures in place for social distancing but are not impossible. For documents that need signatures, documents can be scanned to the appropriate parties, get signed, and then sent back and assembled. Documents could go through the mail as well. The preferable method of signatures at this point is an electronic or digital signature.
National has announced that through September 30, 2020 electronic or digital signatures will be accepted. There may be some Scouts and volunteers that have access to digital signature technology and will be able to sign documents that way. Electronic signatures are going to likely be much more common. An electronic signature can be simply someone’s signature sent back in an email as a scan or a photograph or someone writing in an email that they approve the result of the board of review as long as their full name is included in the email (i.e. I, John Smith, participated in the board of review for Scout Sam Jones, and approve that he should be a Life Scout). This email can be printed and included with the form.
Q: There are some other councils that are offering merit badge opportunities online? Is this something that the New Birth of Freedom Council can do?
A: We are working on some options for this. Like most other councils in the country, we lack the virtual infrastructure to offer mass merit badge instruction but are looking at some ways that we can offer select merit badges. If there are merit badge counselors that are interested in being part of offering a virtual class open to any Scouts in the council, please contact, Chris Styers at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Troops should not hesitate to reach out to their own merit badge counselors or merit badge counselors on the list to ask if they would be willing to help teach something for their units. National has provided a list of 58 merit badges that lend themselves to being completed during closures and quarantine. (https://tinyurl.com/vgjwlmh)
Q: Lone Scouts are not required to camp with a troop to earn camping nights. Is national considering extending Lone Scout opportunities to Scouts working virtually with a scoutmaster and troop?
A: At this point, no. There are specific requirements for youth to participate as Lone Scouts and national is not considering opening the Lone Scout program beyond those requirements.
Advancement – Eagle Specific
Q: Will Life Scouts be able to have beyond their 18th birthday to complete their Eagle rank to accommodate delays in Merit Badge work or completing Eagle Projects?
A: The short answer is yes, as long as it is a direct result of a delay caused by COVID-19. Scouts that complete all of the work for Eagle Rank but have not had their board of review by their 18th birthday will still be able to be recognized as an Eagle without having to officially file an extension request. Scouts that are unable to complete their Eagle work by their 18th birthday because of COVID-19 must file an extension request. For more details about that process, visit https://tinyurl.com/sdxyjlc.
Q: How will Eagle Scout Project Proposals be conducted with no Roundtables and service centers closed?
A: The Council Advancement Committee is in the process of finalizing a digital way for project proposals to be reviewed. Life Scouts will be able to upload their proposal to the New Birth of Freedom Council website and then the Scout will be contacted by the district volunteer responsible for approving projects. Project approvals may include follow up emails, phone calls, or video conference.
Q: Can Eagle Applications and Binders be processed while the service centers are closed?
A: Currently, no, but the Council Advancement Committee is working on a process to accomplish this. Right now, with the offices closed, there is not a mechanism for receiving Eagle Binders or Applications, verifying completion of requirements, or initiating the reference letter requests. We are currently trying to find out if National can grant us remote abilities to verify applications and are developing a mechanism to both collect the appropriate data and initiate the reference letter process. Please watch www.newbirthoffreedom.org for updates.
Q: Will Eagle Board continue while all of this is going on?
A: Yes. Eagle Boards of review can happen during this time and will continue. All Eagle Boards until the social distancing requirements are lifted will need to be conducted virtually. See the section above about videoconferencing for boards of review.
Section 3 – Unit Meetings and Outings
Q: Are units permitted to take groups smaller than 10 out on hikes or other trips?
A: No. Units are not permitted to organize any type of meeting or outing that physically brings Scouts together. This does not mean that you can never leave your house. Families are welcome to follow the PA, Federal, and CDC guidelines for outdoor activity. Units can encourage families to take part in FAMILY activities but cannot organize activities as a unit.
Units may share with families that are interested in trying to help out others that the family CAN volunteer at a local foodbank. The unit CANNOT organize to travel as or meet as a group and participate in a food distribution.
The governor has ordered a STAY AT HOME order for the entire state so as organizations we must follow that order.
Q: What are the guidelines for virtual campouts?
A: There is not a written guideline for a virtual campout that is any different from the Youth Protection and Barriers of Abuse guidelines that exist. The Cyber Chip Program is a great way to get Scouts and leaders familiar with being safe while online.
Units can get creative with their virtual campout. Utilizing tools such as Zoom, Webex, and other services, Scouts could meet for a virtual campfire or virtual instruction in a Scout skill or merit badge. For some examples of those services, visit: https://tinyurl.com/wx3quhz.
For virtual events, the information above about advancement holds true. Requirements may not be modified, as in a requirement that requires you to cook a meal with your patrol cannot be substituted with cooking a meal with your family. There are some requirements that will just have to wait until the quarantine has ended.
Section 4: Membership Processing
Q: Is there a way to submit new BSA member applications electronically?
A: Yes. You can email new member applications to your district executive. You can find your district executive’s contact information on the staff directory at https://newbirthoffreedom.org/resources/staff-directory/.
Clearances for adult applications SHOULD NOT be sent to your district executive and should instead be uploaded directly to our website at: http://tinyurl.com/qc6fhfm
Note: All applications have to be received locally and processed at the National Office. There will be a delay from the time that something is submitted locally until it appears on the unit roster. If your applications were submitted just prior to the governor’s close down, those applications will not be able to be processed until our service centers reopen.
Q: What should we have leaders do that have clearances expiring while the offices are closed?
A: Most adults will still be able to get their Pennsylvania State Police and Department of Human Services clearances or updates done at this time. For most, this process is automatic and current state furloughs are not impacting processing. We are processing records received daily. All clearances should be uploaded electronically instead of being mailed to either service center. They can be uploaded at https://tinyurl.com/yy8b692g.
We are aware that there are a number of fingerprint locations that are closed and that the governor’s Stay At Home order prevents individuals from going out. Applicants that have been PA residents for the last 10 years can simply complete the New Birth of Freedom Council Disclosure Statement and upload it with their other clearances. If you are unable to do so, volunteers will have to wait to participate until fingerprinting locations reopen and the governor’s order is lifted.
Q: Can adults register as merit badge counselors now?
A: Yes. The process is outlined at https://tinyurl.com/r9uexlp. Please forward the appropriate documentation to your district executive instead of the service center to be processed.
Q: Will my unit receive its charter in the mail?
A: No. In 2019, the National Council discontinued the process of printing annual charters. Key 3 members of the unit have the ability to print their unit charter through my.scouting.org. A step-by-step guide is available at https://tinyurl.com/svqf7xj.
Q: Will I receive my BSA membership card in the mail?
A: No. In 2019, the National Council discontinued the process of printing membership cards. Individuals may print his or her own card. The Unit Key 3 can print cards for the entire unit. A step-by-step guide is available at https://tinyurl.com/svqf7xj.
Q: The online merit badge counselor list has not yet been updated for 2020. When will this be done?
A: We have to submit all of our merit badge counselors to the National Council to be processed. Due to lags in processing at National and the COVID-19 outbreak, a new list for 2020 has not been processed. Once we have the list, we will work to get the listing updated.
Q: Can the list of merit badge counselors be updated in Scoutbook?
A: Before the COVID-19 outbreak, we intended to have this list live in Scoutbook by late March or early April. Once National has completed the registration process of our merit badge counselors, we will be importing the full list into Scoutbook. This will provide much better access to our merit badge counselors than our current list. Watch www.newbirthoffreedom.org for when this will go live.
Section 5 – Camp Cards
Q: Will the Camp Card Sale be extended?
A: Yes. The Camp Card Sale was extended to June 16. We will consider extending it beyond that date as well, but we must follow up with our vendors as our agreement with them says that we will finish selling cards at the end of May. More information will be posted on the website. For details about the extension, please visit https://tinyurl.com/uua64nn.
Section 6 – General Questions
Q: Are there any changes with the scheduling of the Eagle Scout Banquet in Hershey?
A: No. At this time, we hope that all events in the later part of the year will not be impacted by COVID-19 related closures.
Q: Is the May 30, Council Volunteer Banquet and District Receptions still on?
A: No. Dickinson College has canceled all functions through the end of May. We are currently working on plans to reschedule the event in 2020. Once we have more information, we will post it at www.newbirthoffreedom.org and our social media channels.
Q: Is there an update on the Shrewsbury Merit Badge Camporee or East Shore Merit Badge College?
A: Currently, both events are still on the calendar as scheduled. The East Shore Merit Badge College is operating on a modified schedule for instruction. If there are any changes, we will post announcements at www.newbirthoffreedom.org and our social media channels.
Q: Will there be modified Journey to Excellence (JTE) requirements for units?
A: The JTE program is a national program and we cannot make modifications locally. National is aware that COVID-19 may have a significant impact on units being able to meet some requirements and is considering whether to make changes. Once we have more information, we will post it at www.newbirthoffreedom.org and our social media channels.
Q: Will there be reimbursement for tickets to the Hershey Bears Game that was canceled?
A: The Hershey Bears are still waiting for direction for the rest of their season. If you purchased tickets directly through the Hershey Bears, they will reach out to you directly about rescheduling or refunds once a decision has been made. For those units that registered to participate through the popcorn and nuts sale, we will communicate with you once the Bears have made their decision. All ticket fees that were collected passed through us to the Bears and were paid for at this point. As we have more information, we will let you know.
Q: Can this roundtable format be used at other times during the year?
A: Yes. We have the capability of handling a large roundtable like this and it is something that we certainly can look at using in the future.