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.

Edwardsburg

Ontwa Township Edwardsburg Police Log: Feb. 15-22

Dowagiac

SMC graduate experiences Super Bowl

Dowagiac

Dowagiac women aim to create change through local government

Dowagiac

SMC COVID task force leader talks with Dowagiac Rotary Club

Business

Niles roller rink reopens following legal battle

Berrien County

Michigan Works! announces community wide survey to learn about COVID-19’s impact

Cass County

Cass County prepares to adjust to criminal justice reforms

Berrien County

Michiana Family Center seeks mentors for foster teens

Business

Nobo Michigan opens Edwardsburg location

Cassopolis

Businesses battle over land use in Cassopolis’ Industrial Park

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: Feb. 19-24

Berrien County

Mount Calvary Baptist to host COVID-19 vaccination clinic March 5

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Berrien County reports new COVID-19 death

Berrien County

Berrien County Health Department, Spectrum Health Lakeland give vaccination updates

Cass County

Applications open for Cass County Sheriff’s Community Scholarship

Berrien County

Berrien County commissioners send message to state on regionalizing COVID-19 approach

Cass County

Lewis Cass ISD to host superintendent interviews Monday

Cass County

Michigan Works! to open office in Cass County administration building

Business

Dollar General, marijuana microbusiness, Iron Shoe expansion coming to Niles

Dowagiac

Silver Creek Township Planning Commission tables short-term rental ordinance draft vote

News

New SOS online, self-service options coming soon

Business

Niles restaurant week to showcase 18 restaurants

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 583,964 cases, 15,405 deaths

Cass County

Cass County GOP censures Congressman Fred Upton for vote against Marjorie Taylor Greene