Reopening Northland Pines school district to in-person instruction on Sept. 1 was approved by the school board with the intent for all students to stay in session and create the safest environment possible for all students and staff but be prepared for multiple options for change should change be needed.
District Administrator Scott Foster and his staff used multiple sources to develop plan options for not only in-person instruction but for physical distance learning and remote learning and be ready for all options realizing there's a chance for students, families, and staff could experience two or more options as the school year progresses.
Foster emphasized all work on plans are is draft form and can and will be updated on a weekly and monthly basis with Foster saying “the plan is a living document and will have changes but I'm asking the school board if we are headed down the right path?”
The back to school plan addresses both elementary and middle and high school buildings looking at safety, elements of learning, social and emotional support, transportation, nutrition, and extra curricular activities. “We need to open safely and we need to make school enjoyable and fun again,” Foster said. “We don't want them to come back to a sterile environment but allow them to again participate in art, music, phy. ed, use of outdoor spaces for such things as recess.”
School staff have looked at each classroom and grade level for keeping distances at least four feet apart in elementary grades and four to six feet apart in middle and high school. There will be different passing times in upper grades and lockers will have new arrangements. Busing will be one child per seat unless having same families in a seat or same cohorts using the same seat. Children will seat in buses from the back to the front when loading and unload from the front to the back. Nutrition will be served to elementary students in the cafeteria with seating by grade level and documented seating. Middle and high school will be served in the commons and field house with documented seating, meaning you will sit at the same place with the same students.
Board president David Weber admitted “some things may become more restrictive but our goal is to get kids back into the classrooms safely.” Both physical distance learning and virtual learning plans are developed but physical distance learning would affect the upper grades first and only after other models are tried. Foster explained that going to total virtual learning would have to be changed from what was done last spring in that more structure would be needed.
Bottom line is change would be an option when positive COVID-19 in the county would rise. It would change how learning takes place. Consideration needs of family and students and staff will be taken into consideration. Foster did note that tension is rising among teachers but they support in-classroom instruction being done in a safe manner.
The school board discussed having a special meeting prior to their next scheduled board meeting on Aug. 24 but will make that decision after more local information on area cases are known.