By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The start of the 2021-22 school year is only weeks away, and in preparation, the Newkirk Public Schools has reviewed the ‘Return to Learn Plan,’ and made adjustments for the coming school year to keep students and staff safe in light of recent COVID-19 developments.
The Return to Learn plan was first drafted in the spring 2020 semester, as the school went into virtual education due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was adjusted that summer to prepare for the 2020-21 school year.
The Board of Education met July 15 to approve an amended version of the plan. The plan was drafted by a committee of educators and community members, including NPS Superintendent Scott Kempenich; NHS Principal Cathy Bible and NHS staff Robin Johnson and Shonda Briscoe; NMS Principal Wendy Terrazas; NES Principal Brandie Choate, NPS staff members Karen Focke, Melissa Rowe, Peggy Frieouf, Paula Hensley and Lisa O’Neal; Newkirk Fire Chief Adam Longcrier; School Board member Trevor O’Brien; and parent Scarlett Collins.
While portions of the Return to Learn Plan remain the same, much has changed, as concerns over the pandemic have decreased recently, especially with educator vaccinations, which help lower the risk in the classroom.
One of the key highlights of the previous plan was the allowance of virtual education, where students could opt for learning from home if they felt unsafe during the pandemic. All learning is now in-class, although virtual education will still be allowed should there be local spikes in COVID-19 cases.
“Newkirk Public Schools is not going to offer a virtual option for the 2021-22 school year. We are having in-person teaching as our primary learning mode to start the school year,” Kempenich said.
There also will not be a mask mandate at the school, although masks may be worn by those who feel uncomfortable. Health screenings also will not be performed by the school, and are relegated to parents prior to the start of the school day.
“There’ll be no temperature checks to start the day, as we did last year, but we will still continue to conduct contact tracing to those that test positive,” he said. “We will be asking parents to screen their children before sending them to school as they did last year.”
A virtual learning plan is in place in case of a rise in cases at NPS arises; otherwise, administrators are hopeful for a positive start the the new school year.
“We still have a distance learning plan in place in case we have a new outbreak, but we are hopeful to be in school all year,” Kempenich said. “I’m really exited to get back to ‘normal’ for the students and parents at Newkirk.”
The revised plan is currently available at the NPS Web site, www.newkirk.k12.ok.us, and a link is available for questions or comments.