County schools put twists on celebrating Halloween

Fall decorations at Howard Elementary School.
Fall decorations at Howard Elementary School.

When it comes to Halloween, schools in Centre County celebrate differently, but have a common theme of recognizing the holiday while being cognizant of everyone’s beliefs.

Many school administrators said they allow students and staff to decorate the schools and wear costumes, while teaching about the history behind the holiday.

Generally, decor is fall themed, and costumes must meet school guidelines, which prohibit the use of face masks, weapons or replicated weapons, and costumes that could be interpreted as too frightening.

At least one school also finds a way to give back while trick-or-treating.

And St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy is doing much of the same thing, but with a different twist.

“This year, we are encouraging students to dress up as saints,” theology teacher Nick Astle said. “The word Halloween comes from All Hallows’ Eve, which commemorates the evening before All Hallows’ Day, which we now call All Saints’ Day.”

Dressing as a saint, Astle said, is done for two reasons.

“It reminds students of the deeper meaning of the holiday; that is, it keeps the emphasis on the holy men and women who have preceded us in faith,” he said. “Second, it honors the tradition behind the act of dressing up in costume.”

Astle explained that in the late-medieval period, a form of art known as the “danse macabre” was popular in Europe.

“These paintings depicted death leading people to the afterlife, and often included people from various states of life, including bishops, popes and other saints,” he said. “Soon, it became popular to act out these paintings in real life, as a tableau vivant. Townspeople would dress up as the saints and other characters from these paintings and dance through the streets on the night before All Saints’ Day.”

Astle said that since the holiday is “definitively Catholic in origin,” the theology department will offer to students a history of the day with an emphasis on the religious significance it still holds in the church.

The lowdown on Halloween at other schools

Students and staff at Howard Elementary School focus on celebrating the fall season, rather than specifically Halloween.

The school is filled with decor and artwork, primarily crafted by students, which includes leaves falling off trees, candy corn and jack-o’-lanterns.

Most of the work, Principal Skip Pighetti said, ties into class curriculum for English language arts, math and science.

And staff and students are even allowed to dress up on designated days as long as the costume fits the Bald Eagle Area School District guidelines, which prohibit weapons, blood and gore.

And this year, the faculty and staff are also participating in a costume theme: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Young Scholars Charter School of Central Pennsylvania is also furnished with fall-themed decor, and students and staff celebrate what they call “Costume Day.”

Kindergarten teacher and school spokeswoman Crystal Confer said students have the chance to wear costumes to school, and participate in a hallway parade so students can see each others’ costumes.

This year, teachers are dressing up in superhero-themed costumes.

But the bigger message this year is to help give back.

Confer said students will be given a “Trick-or-treat UNICEF” box, which they can use to ask for donations while trick-or-treating on their personal time.

UNICEF — United Nations Children’s Fund — provides financial relief and other services to children in need in developing countries.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo