Rank Advancement and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
I hope you and your families are all holding up in these difficult times.
 
As many of you are aware, the Corona virus (COVID-19) Pandemic and the resulting restrictions placed on all of us has necessitated that National make some adjustments to the Advancement Program at the Cub Scout, Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouts to allow for continued progress by Scouts and to accommodate increased exception processing. While it is hoped that the crisis will subside as quickly as possible, the adjustments anticipate an extended period of time to make it workable.
There are a variety of points that have been dealt with and it is incumbent on all of us as the members of the Council's Advancement Team to ensure they are applied consistently and accurately. It is critical that we adhere to these and make sure that the units we support do so as well so all Scouts are treated fairly, but also held to the requisite standards. No other changes to advancement requirements are permitted beyond what National has provided.
 
National and Council has distributed the guidelines in a variety of communications and provided them in Q&A format. All revisions consider the base requirements of the Guide to Advancement 2019 which is attached.
 
We will be issuing a communication to the Council distribution list for the Eagle Rank issues beyond what has already been distributed, but I wanted to share the substance of it with you first.
 
Some important points for emphasis
 
Eagle Boards of Review
The use of videoconferencing to conduct Eagle Boards of Review is approved by Northern New Jersey Council and does not need to be requested for each individual Board of Review. The requirements must be strictly followed and I ask that you help to ensure compliance. Only videoconferencing is acceptable. Teleconferences are not permissible as it is not possible for all to know who is on the call.
 
Videoconferencing can be accomplished simply and reliably using Zoom (zoom.com) although other options exist as well. The requirements to be followed are enclosed below (from the GTA 2019 - Section 8.0.1.6). The process works well if followed correctly.
 
GTA
8.0.1.6 Boards of Review Through Videoconferencing
Boards of review for any rank are meant to be face-to-face, personal experiences. From time to time, however, as Scouts go off to college or the military, or live in very remote locations, for example, it may be virtually impossible to hold in-person boards of review. In those rare situations where it is unreasonable to expect a Scout to travel long distances, or to wait several months, it is permissible to use videoconferencing. If such boards of review are held, however, they must be conducted according to the following requirements.
  1. The local council must grant permission to hold a videoconference board of review for the Eagle Scout rank.(The use of videoconferencing to conduct Eagle Boards of Review is approved by Northern New Jersey Council in the opening statement and does not need to be requested for each individual Board of Review during the Covid-19 restrictions). Videoconference boards of review may be held for other ranks without local council approval, but they still must comply with the following requirements.
  2. All equipment, including the cameras, lighting, microphones, software, and internet connection, should be tested ahead of time to provide the best audiovisual experience possible.
  3. All members of the board of review must be visible to the Scout, and any observers with the Scout must be visible to the members of the board of review. No one within hearing range on either side shall be off camera. It is important to consider your technical capabilities when planning how many board of review members to involve. Observers should be minimized for any board of review, and this applies especially to videoconference reviews. Their presence can change the discussion dynamics.
  4. For Scouts under the age of 18, a parent or guardian of the Scout, or two registered adult leaders as required by the Guide to Safe Scouting (www. scouting.org/health-and-safety/gss/gss01) who are familiar with these requirements for videoconference boards of review, must be directly present with the Scout at the beginning of the conference. The Scouters may be from the nearest council, district, or unit. Their role is to verify that the Scout is in a safe environment and that the board of review appears to be in compliance with these requirements. Once all the members of the board of review are present on their end of the call and introductions are completed, and the review is about to begin, anyone present with the Scout must leave the room or move out of hearing distance unless they have specifically been approved to remain as observers. See “Conducting the Board of Review,” 8.0.1.0, for more information.
  5. Once the review process has been concluded, if the Scout is under age 18, the Scout’s parent or guardian, or two registered adult leaders must rejoin the Scout. Their purpose is to be available to answer any questions that may arise, to join in the celebration of the Scout’s accomplishment, or to be party to any instructions or arrangements regarding the appeals process or the reconvening of an incomplete review. Once this is done, the board members end the call and sign off.
  6. Videoconference boards of review must not be recorded.

Eagle/Summit/Quartermaster Extensions

The extension request is attached for use and reference.

It is critical that extensions be properly completed to ensure timely processing. The form is very clear as to what is required and from whom. Full details on the reasons for the delay, project status and a Scouts' overall status on the Trail to Eagle/Summit or Quartermaster (badges, positions, etc.) must be provided to facilitate decision making. All supporting letters, statements and communications must be dated, identified to and signed by the preparer.
The lack of details and attempts at shortcuts will delay our ability to review and process the request and result in it being returned for more details.

Only delays arising from COVID-19 restrictions can be considered for approval at the Council level. These have a maximum extension date of 3 months from a Scout's 18th birthday depending on the circumstances. Longer extension request or other issues that result in an extension request still have to be passed on to National for consideration
All extension requests should be forwarded to Billy Cook ( billy.cook@scouting.org ) and myself ( jtmiii@optonline.net ) to initiate processing.
We will ask the three District Advancement Committee Chairs to serve as reviewers for each extension submitted (two of the three will be needed to review each request as required by the process) in addition to myself.
Scouts should always continue working on requirements pending an extension request and should not wait for approval so as not to lose more time.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Sincerely,
Jerry Murnane

Please follow this link to the Guide to Advancement (GTA), which remains the primary source for information related to Scouts BSA advancement. It is referenced throughout the answers provided here.

All Scouting Programs
Q: How can advancement be tracked remotely?
A: Scouting units should use ScoutBook to record and track advancement.
To track advancement remotely, parents should:
  1. Connect with their child’s member profile via an invitation that the unit leader sends within ScoutBook.
  2. Once a connection is made, the parent should use the Scouting app, found in both the App Store and Google Play, to stay connected with their unit.
  3. The Scouting app provides parents the ability to report any advancement that was completed at home.
Go to https://help.scoutbook.com to learn more about how to start using ScoutBook and how to connect parents to their Scouts.
Cub Scouts
May parents sign off on Webelos and Arrow of Light requirements?
  • 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.
If my den is behind in advancement due to COVID-19, can my Cub Scout continue to work on advancement through the summer?
  • Yes. Cub Scouts can continue to work on their current den’s advancement through July 31, 2020. This is to provide any additional time a Cub Scout needs to complete their badge of rank; if they earn their badge of rank prior to July 31, 2020, they may advance to the next rank. 
Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scouts
May merit badge requirements or rank requirements be modified?
  • 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.

Can merit badge counseling or Nova/Supernova counseling be done using digital technologies like Zoom or WebEx?
  • Yes, registered merit badge counselors or Nova counselors/Supernova mentors may work with youth using digital platforms, ensuring that all youth protection measures noted in the Guide to Safe Scouting and BSA’s social media guidelines are in place. In addition to youth protection, the advancement guidelines in GTA Section 7 are required.

May time missed due to canceled unit meetings count toward active participation requirements?
  • Yes. If youth are registered and in good standing, a disruption from COVID-19 virus can be the “noteworthy circumstance” that prevents participation. This policy has been in place for many years and is explained in GTA Topic 4.2.3.1.

May time missed due to canceled unit meetings count toward position of responsibility requirements?
  • Yes. If youth are registered and unable to meet the expectations of their positions because of COVID-19 disruptions, then units may need to waive or rethink the expectations. Just as youth must not be held to unestablished expectations, they must not be held to expectations that are impossible to fulfill. See GTA Topic 4.2.3.4, “Positions of Responsibility,” with its six subtopics.

Does the National Council grant extensions of time to complete rank requirements beyond the 18 th birthday for the Eagle or 21 st birthday for Summit or Quartermaster?
  • Yes, but only for the Eagle Scout rank as described in GTA Topic 9.0.4.0 or for Venturing Summit or Sea Scout Quartermaster as described in GTA Topic 4.3.3.0. Unit leadership must become familiar with the five tests under 9.0.4.0. The tests were designed to accommodate such obstacles as those presented by COVID-19 disruptions.

Will youth who are not yet Life Scouts be allowed to apply for an extension to earn the Eagle Scout rank?
  • Extensions are considered only for Scouts who are Life rank. If, once a Scout achieves Life rank, it turns out that COVID-19 disruptions along the way have left them with insufficient time to complete Eagle requirements, then this may be cited when the time comes to submit an extension request.
May local councils grant extensions?

Normally, that is not allowed. However, due to the current situation—effective immediately and through September 30, 2020—council Scout executives may grant extensions, or delegate authority to the Council Advancement Committee to grant extensions under the following limitations:

  1. It can be established that COVID-19 disruptions were the only circumstances that delayed work on Eagle Scout/Summit/Quartermaster advancement requirements, such as the service project or merit badges. If any other causes were involved, the extension request must go to the National Council following the process outlined in the GTA.
  2. Extensions shall only be granted to youth in Scouts BSA who have already achieved Life rank.
  3. When the council receives a COVID-19-related request for a time extension, the council reviews the request and approves it if appropriate. A written response stating the outcome of the extension request must go to the youth. If approved, the notification must be attached to the youth’s Eagle/Summit/Quartermaster rank application. For Eagle, the extension must not exceed 3 months from the youth’s 18th birthday; for Summit/Quartermaster, the extension must not exceed 3 months from the youth’s 21st birthday.  
  4. Upon turning 18, the Scout must submit a completed adult application and successfully complete YPT; their participant code will now be UP for SBSA or VP for Venturing and Sea Scouting.
  5. Extension requests for more than 3 months beyond the youth’s 18th/21st birthday must be sent to the National Service Center following the process outlined in the GTA.

Note: A “month” in BSA advancement is defined as a day from one month to the next. For example, March 5 to April 5.
The authority for councils to grant extensions is temporary,
lasting only through Sept. 30, 2020.
If youth have already received an extension, can they request additional time due to COVID-19?
  • Yes. Council Scout executives may grant extensions, or delegate authority to the Council Advancement Committee to grant extensions under the limitations listed above.
What should be done while an extension request is being considered?
  • Youth should continue to work on advancement in so far as they are able—e.g., independently, or over the phone or videoconference—and at Scouting activities once they resume.

Are extensions required when an Eagle/Summit/Quartermaster board of review must be delayed?
  • No. Councils may grant Eagle/Summit/Quartermaster boards of review up to six months after the youth’s 18th/21st birthday. See GTA Topic 8.0.3.1, “Eagle Scout Board of Review Beyond the 18th Birthday.”
  • See also, GTA Topic 8.0.1.6, “Boards of Review Through Videoconferencing.”
Are electronic or digital signatures acceptable for rank advancement or for the Eagle/Summit/Quartermaster packets/applications?
  • Yes. Electronic or digital signatures will be accepted through September 30, 2020.

How can a youth continue to work on advancement requirements if they don’t have internet or high-speed internet for videoconferencing?
  • Youth may take a picture of their completed activity/requirement and share the work with unit leaders. In keeping with Youth Protection Training policies, all communications from youth should be sent to at least two adults. Parents or guardians may send advancement work on behalf of their child