By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The Newkirk Public Schools (NPS) Board of Education (BOE) convened for their monthly meeting Oct. 12, and took action to amend their Return to Learn plan in light of contract tracing of recent cases at the school.
A 16-person panel convened in July to draft the plan, which included NPS teachers and staff along with parents, with assistance from the Kay County Health Department. The plan initially had three color-coded phases, including the Green Phase, Yellow Phase and Red Phase.
Under the new plan, the Yellow Phase has been eliminated, leaving just the Green and Red Phases in place.
“We ended up taking the Yellow Phase out,” NPS Superintendent Scott Kempenich said. “Since there were changes from July to now, we realized the Yellow Phase was no longer needed.”
NPS is currently under the Green Phase, which means the school is opened for education, although students may learn virtually if they feel more comfortable staying home.
If the school enters the Red Phase, students will learn virtually, with teachers educating from the classroom. Students and staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 must be without fever for 72 hours before returning to school.
Due to contact tracing, NPS administration, in coordination with the local health department, could identify students or staff members who may have come in contact with a positive case, and send only those students into a two-week quarantine instead of closing the school.
The Yellow Phase has now been eliminated from the Return to Learn program, with amendments to both the Green and Red Phases. Under the new Green Phase, only those testing positive for the virus or those with close contact will be sent home. Contact tracing looks at whether students or staff members were within 6 ft. for at least 15 minutes.
“If a student tested positive, or if they are contact-traced, we will be sending them home for 14 days, and they learn virtually from home,” Kempenich said.
NPS will enter the Red Phase if it cannot operate efficiently due to absences of students or staff. All extracurricular activities will be canceled. The school will return to the Green Phase when it is determined they can once again operate effectively.
NPS will be working with the KCHD and other health officials to amend the plan as necessary.
“If we go into the Red Phase, the students are going to learning from the house, and teachers will be teaching from the school,” Kempenich said.
The school started preparing for a virtual day Sept. 30.
“To help prepare for a possible Red Phase, we’ll have one more virtual day on Nov. 3,” Kempenich said.
For more information about the Return to Learn plan, contact NPS at (580) 263-2388, or view the plan on the school’s Web site, www.newkirk.k12.ok.us.