By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Newkirk Public Schools (NPS) has re-entered the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year, and has taken steps to ensure the safety of students, staff and administrators to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, through the Return to Learn Plan, passed by the NPS Board of Education July 23.
The Return to Learn Plan was devised by a 16-person committee, which included Shonda Brisco, NES Assistant Principal Brandie Choate, Scarlett Collins, NHS Principal Kevin Engle, Karen Focke, Peggy Frieouf, Paula Hensley, NES Principal Pam Hunter, Robin Johnson, Superintendent Scott Kempenich, Andrew Mayden, School Board member Trevor O’Brien, Lisa O’Neal, Melissa Rowe, NMS Principal Jeff Wilson and Newkirk Fire Chief Adam Longcrier.
The plan includes three color-coded phases for handling COVID-19 cases at all NPS campuses.
The school year will begin in the Green Plan, where no cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Under this plan, all facilities will be fully open and no reductions in staff or student body will be employed. Parents and students will be offered either in-school or virtual instruction; however, parents may choose to switch educational strategies only once each semester.
The second measure is the Yellow Plan, where two COVID-19 cases are reported in separate facilities. The school will undergo the Yellow Plan for two weeks, using a combination of in-school learning and virtual learning, in what is referred to as a “blended model.”
Students will be divided into two groups. Group A will have in-school classes Monday and Tuesday, and virtual learning Thursday and Friday. Group B students will undergo virtual learning Monday and Tuesday, and in-school learning Thursday and Friday. All students will have virtual learning Wednesday during the two-week protective order.
Further, all extracurricular activities will be cancelled for the duration of the Yellow Plan.
If another COVID-19 infection is identified after the Yellow Plan is enacted NPS will enter the Red Plan, which will be in effect for 21 days. All learning will be virtual, and in order for students to return to classes, they must be without fever for 72 hours, and pass a questionnaire concerning their health.
NPS will return to the Yellow Plan for 14 days following the completion of the Red Plan.
While NPS is open to students and staff, many measures will be undertaken to ensure the cleanliness and safety of the school system in the Return to Learn Plan. The plan is subject to change throughout the school year.
A health questionnaire will be released to parents and be required for students to attend NPS.
“The survey is not something that parents will have to fill out and send with students as they return to school,” Kempenich said. “We will be asking parents to make sure that they screen their child or children, using the survey prior to sending them to school.”
NPS leaders stress the need to protect public health. Social distancing will be enacted, and all students and staff are recommended to wear some form of mask, although it is not required. Everyone will be screened for conditions, and gatherings will be limited.
There will also be cleanliness and sanitation protocols enacted. Those sanitation protocols include washing hands at least 20 seconds, as well as requirements for buses, classrooms, halls, lockers and other areas where there is a high volume student and staff interaction. Those protocols are based on necessity.
All bus routes will run as normal, but parents are asked to transport their children to school if possible. Students riding the buses are asked to practice social distancing, if possible, and additional measures will be followed while enroute to the school or home, as well as other bussed activities. Bus windows will be open, when possible, to allow for more air circulation, and buses will be disinfected following each route. Students are encouraged to wear masks on the buses.
Students must also present the health questionnaire prior to entering the bus.
Any student or faculty member with a temperature above 100 degrees will be sent home, and may only return when he or she is fever-free for at least 36 hours and pass the health survey.
The Kay County Health Department and Newkirk Family Health Center can provide COVID-19 testing, but parents are required to cover all fees associated with the screening. Students are not required to undergo testing, but must remain fever-free for 36 hours before returning to school, regardless of illness.
Anyone who tests negative for COVID-19 must remain fever-free for 36 hours. If an individual tests positive, however, or can be contact-traced to a positive individual, he or she must be quarantined for 14 days, be fever-free for 72 hours afterward and pass the health survey prior to returning to school.
Those under quarantine will continue virtual learning to keep up with classes.
Athletics and other extracurricular activities will continue as scheduled; however, they may be impacted by other school districts that may have positive COVID-19 cases.
For more information about returning to school and COVID-19 protocols, call (580) 362-2388 or visit www.newkirk.k12.ok.us.