NNCS superintendent wants to give parents more time to decide on sending kids back to school
BY MATT LINDSEY
NORTH COUNTRY THIS WEEK
NORWOOD – Norwood-Norfolk Central School Superintendent Jamie Cruikshank says he wants to give district parents as much time as they can before deciding to send their child to school this fall.
Cruikshank, unlike some other district superintendents that have required decisions by parents already, believes asking parents to make a choice now is too soon. He thinks they need more information. Cruikshank thought even the first week of August was still too soon to decide.He spoke Tuesday to the school board and the meeting was streamed online. You can watch the entire meeting here.
“This plan isn’t what you want, it’s not what I want, it’s not what our kids want, it's not what our families want,” NNCS Superintendent Jamie Cruikshank said to the school board as he opened the meeting.
The NNCS reopening plan, which is due to the state today, was developed to provide compliance plans to the state for reopening during a pandemic.
Some issues schools are facing include how to screen children for possible COVID-19 symptoms, how to socially distance them and how to provide a proper education during a pandemic.
“Our limitations are transportation and spacing,” Cruikshank said.
It is expected that more students will be transported to school by their parents due to issues of not being able to socially distance properly on buses.
Masks will be required on buses, as well as in classrooms. There will be mask breaks during the day for students.
Parents of students in kindergarten through fourth grade will have the option to send their child to school five days a week or to keep them home and learn completely online.
The plan for middle and high school is to have students learn completely remote or to be in school two days a week and learn remotely three days. About half of students would attend as “Group A” or “Group B” to meet social distancing guidelines. NNCS is planning for all middle and high school students to learn remotely on Wednesdays.
“By choosing Wednesday it gives the impression that it’s a work day,” Cruikshank said about why the district chose that day as a complete remote learning day for middle and high schoolers.
BOCES and special needs students will be prioritized. BOCES students will be in person daily at BOCES, but will only be in person at NNCS on the days their group is assigned.
The school is mandated to offer remote learning to all students.
Cruikshank noted this is “phase one” of the school’s reopening plan and variables could change the number of students it can offer in-school learning to.
For now, the district does not have the space to allow all students to return full-time.
“I’m gonna say this and I don’t think it’s callous. We have a lot of essential workers that for the last five months have gone out every day … in hospitals, have been a check-out person, been trying to keep their business together with offering delivery or pick-up. We’ve had a lot of people try to keep things going. It is education’s turn to do our part to start.”
Teachers will create their lectures for a virtual setting, even for the students who attend in person. This will allow for a smoother transition if an outbreak should occur and the school closes.
Emphasis will be placed on training parents to understand how online learning will work. This could be done through video tutorials or in-person meetings at the school in small groups.
Cruikshank said in recent talks with Dr. Andrew Williams, St. Lawrence County Board of Health president, and Dana McGuire, St. Lawrence County’s public health director, he learned that a positive COVID-19 by a student or staff member does not automatically mean closure. It could mean only certain students or staff members must be quarantined or other precautions are taken.
The district is still wrestling with plans on how to make sure each child’s temperature is taken daily before school. Cruikshank said he did not have enough staff to test all students, roughly 700.
The screening is likely to be done by parents. This raises concerns for many, as there are many families who do not believe in facemasks, or the pandemic.
“These are not choices that we’re making that is best for kids in a normal situation,” Cruikshank said. We’re making decisions that are best for kids during a pandemic and a financial collapse.
To read the district’s reopening plan, click here.