By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Newkirk Public Schools (NPS) has received another positive test for COVID-19, leading to the quarantine of several students for the second time in the past week.
“We had one student test positive for COVID-19 over the weekend,” said NPS Superintendent Scott Kempenich. “We sent approximately 15 students home from contact tracing. This was the second student test positive in multiple buildings within the last eight days.”
The previous weekend, a student tested positive for COVID-19, which sent about 30 students and staff members home due to contact tracing to see who may have been closest to the student.
A 16-member panel consisting of NPS teachers and staff members, along with parents and community supporters, met in July to create a COVID-19 plan, in conjunction with the Kay County Health Department to have the opportunity to teach remotely in the case of positive tests.
The plan has three color-coded phases. Under the current Green Phase, the school is fully open, with in-classroom education, although students may opt for virtual learning if they feel safer at home.
If multiple cases are reported at NPS, the school enters the Yellow Phase for 14 days, blending virtual and in-class instruction.
Students will be put into two groups. Group A will learn in the classroom Monday – Tuesday, with virtual learning Thursday – Friday. Group B students will learn virtually Monday – Tuesday, with in-class learning Thursday – Friday. Wednesdays will be virtual for everyone.
All extracurricular activities will be cancelled during the the Yellow Phase.
If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 during the Yellow Phase, the school enters the Red Phase, with all students learning virtually for 21 days. Any positive test victims must be without fever for 72 hours and pass a health questionnaire before returning to school.
NPS tested the plan Wednesday, Sept. 30 with virtual learning for the students to determine whether they could employ the program should multiple cases be found. It was deemed a positive day, as it showcased where they could improve prior to the virtual learning.
“The virtual day allowed us to determine if all students could get on the system, if they all had Internet access and if the teachers had the opportunity to work with the system effectively on a virtual day,” Kempenich said. “We learned a lot on Wednesday. We encountered several issues we need to get fixed so the next virtual day will be better. We had some Internet issues on the school’s end, because we’re putting videos online using higher bandwidth.”
Under the original plan, any time there are positive COVID-19 cases in multiple buildings, the school enters the Yellow Phase, where students learn both from home as well as the classroom for 14 days.
The school is still in the Green Phase, due to adjustments in the plan.
“When we created the plan in July, we were under the impression that if someone in the classroom tested positive, everyone in the classroom would be quarantined for two weeks,” Kempenich said. “Because of contract tracing, we don’t have to send the entire classroom home. We do have seating charts in the classroom, which allows us to accurately determine who was exposed according to CDC guidelines.”
The social distancing, including seating charts, as well as contract tracing, has worked well to protect the health and wellness of the students and staff members.
“We’re sending a lower number of students home, which is awesome,” Kempenich said.