Niles High School hosts first locker clean out, pickup
NILES — Students and parents lined up in their cars at Niles High School on Thursday to pick up items left in student lockers before a mandated shutdown. As drivers approached the school, they honked their horns as they saw friends and teachers for the first time since they left classes on March 13 amid the then rising threat of COVID-19.
Teachers and staff wore gloves and masks to run in and out of the gym to get plastic bags filled with students’ belongings left in their lockers. Students and teachers did not know at the time that March 13 would be their last day of class in the school building for the 2019 – 2020 school year. Students had been encouraged to take home what they needed on their last day in schools, but many were not able to do a full locker cleanout.
Thursday marked the first day of locker cleanout for the spring, with a second day following on Friday with two scheduled windows pick up belongings. Niles High School Principal Molly Brawley helped run bags with books and belongings left in lockers to cars for the students, assisted by teachers and staff who rose to the task as volunteers. Niles Community Schools Superintendent Dan Applegate was also on-site to assist the effort.
“Mrs. Brawley was so busy that she had to call people to come in,” Applegate said.
Brawley was in good spirits and greeted students as each car pulled up to roll down their window to let the volunteers know what they were there for — lockers, band instruments, or both.
“I put a call out to all of my teachers, on a voluntary basis, if they felt safe to come in,” Brawley said. “I got a bunch of them to come in. They know how important it is for [students] to get what they need.”
The occasion also gave the teachers, principal and superintendent a chance to see their students for the first time since the buildings closed a month ago.
“That’s the best part of it,” Brawley said. “Seeing lots of smiles. We’re excited about that. It’s really good to see them. A lot of parents have come through with their kids. Everyone is being as safe as they possibly can be.”
Niles High School staff went through more than 800 student lockers. Of the 800, about 500 lockers still had items inside that students were not able to go back for after schools closed. With distance learning shaping up for students in the next week from the district, it was imperative that students get their books, materials and personal belongings back so that they can continue their education at home.
The district is still working on a Chromebook pickup for the middle and high school students.
One of the biggest concerns voiced from the superintendent was the emotional and social health of the students.
“One of the things we do to try and stay connected to students is to require assignments,” Applegate said. “That’s one way we can see if they are engaged or not. We have students that haven’t been engaged; we know we need to reach back out to them. Maybe we need to check on them at home.”
Applegate said that the motivation was not just to check on students academically. The concern was due to the sudden change of situation, and the safety and health of the students.
“Our counselors are available. OK2Say is available, and kids can call it,” Applegate said.
Applegate said students were encouraged to reach out, and if they didn’t feel comfortable reaching out, to use the OK2Say resources, including call 8-555-OK2SAY, texting 652729 (OK2SAY), email at OK2SAY@mi.gov, or use the OK2Say app to get help if they were having trouble dealing with their circumstances.
The staff and faculty are prepared to find ways to stay in contact with their students, and to make sure that they are making it through the change in environment, schedule and social impact, Applegate said.
But Thursday, many were happy to see their students. Students yelled to their teachers as they saw them coming in and out of the building with student belongings. Short conversations happened at a social distance between the cars of students and the sidewalk where the Niles High School staff resided.
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