By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
KILDARE — Kildare Public School (KPS) opened its doors for the new school year Thursday, Aug. 20 for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. In many ways, it was life as normal, as students brought their book bags and found their desks in their new classrooms. In many other ways, it was different, as they have new protocols to follow to keep safe from COVID-19.
In all, it was viewed as a good start to the school year in a new atmosphere. Superintendent-Principal Bruce Shelley is sitting behind his desk a few days after school opening, and is happy with the way the first day went.
“We had a wonderful opening. Our opening plans included our teachers and students wearing masks at designated times,” he said.
For many decades, KPS was a school that taught students from Pre-K through Sixth Grade. At the start of the 2019-2020 school year, they added the first Seventh Grade class in many years. For the 2020-2021 school year, the Seventh Grade class returned another year for Eighth Grade.
The student body otherwise hasn’t changed a whole lot from last year, with the number of students at about 98.
“We’re down a little bit, but not that different from last year,” said Administration Assistant Amy Horinek. “We ended last year at 96.”
One big change for the new school year is health and safety protocols, both for COVID-19 safety, as well as construction undergoing at the school.
Public Schools across the state closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, choosing instead to teach the students virtually to not only protect the health of the kids, but also the teachers and staff. With the threat of COVID-19 still looming overhead, KPS has implemented a plan to keep the kids safe.
The school is currently open, but with a few changes. Students don’t have to wear masks in the classroom, but they are required in hallways and other close spaces, including school buses.
“On the buses, everyone is supposed to wear a face mask, and have their temperature taken before boarding, and the same is at the school – everyone wears a face mask when entering the buildings, and at this time, access to the building is limited,” Horinek said.
Temperatures are also taken for everyone entering the building.
The school has also procured a number of personal protection equipment (PPE) for the school year, which includes hand sanitizer, gloves and masks, to be used to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Some of those came from donations.
“Like any school, we’re using a lot of different PPEs,” Shelley said. “Because of the need across the United States, we’ve spent a lot of money on PPEs, and the state has sent us some and area citizens have donated to the school to help. It’s been a life-saver for those who donated hand sanitizer and back to school supplies.”
Should there be positive tests for COVID-19 in students or staff, there is already a plan in place for students to learn remotely from home.
“We’re currently having classes on-site, 100 percent, but preparing online learning, if it becomes necessary,” Shelley said. “We’re going to be using Google Classroom, and running several other online programs through that platform.”
Parents and guardians can receive information through the school’s new Web site, at www.kildare.k12.ok.us.
While the school isn’t looking forward to closing, they will do so if need be to protect the health of the students and staff.
“We’re doing what we can to protect the kids,” Shelley said. “We want to be normal, yet we know it’s not normal, and we’ll close the school if we have to.”
KPS is working with the Kay County Health Department (KCHD) to determine how and when to close the school, should that happen.
“We’re going to be in contact with the KCHD to make the decision to close the school, using medical science,” Shelley said. “The KCHD can see the trends, so we want to stay in contact with them, and follow the recommendations they suggest.”
Should the school close, they will follow a minimum 14-day program, which will also allow for cleaning of the school.
“If we had two or three kids with positive cases, it is very possible that two to three classrooms could be sequestered,” Shelley said.
Another big change is construction projects at the school which are being implemented to upgrade the facility.
The construction projects are part of a bond measure passed by 84.09 percent of the vote on Nov. 12, 2019.The bond addressed a number of projects, including a re-roofing and expansion of the gym, new locker rooms in the gym, two new classrooms, flooring, a canopy between buildings and a new, secure front entrance.
Although the construction projects commenced during the summer, they will be ongoing through the school year.
“A lot of the work is going to be performed during the school year, but some of the construction started early, so they could be done before the kids arrived, and we thank them for that,” Shelley said.
Although the school year seems different, it’s also back to normal, and teachers and administration will work hard to makes sure all students are safe and healthy.
“I think the kids are glad to be back with their peers, and even their teachers, even though it’s different,” Shelley said.