APPLEGATE: Moving forward with the return to school plan

Schools around the country are hard at work creating return to school plans and roadmaps to ensure that they can safely provide for their students during the 2020-21 school year. At Niles Community Schools, we are still finalizing our return to school plan and monitoring the evolving information. In the meantime, we can now share a few details on what the community can expect.

At this time, we plan to offer both traditional in-person learning in all buildings — as long as there are no changes to the governor’s orders — as well as the option to enroll in the NCS Virtual Campus of Schools. For those who choose in-person learning, our goal is to return students to classroom routines that are as close to normal as possible, with added safety protocols such as the use of masks, social distancing and healthy hygiene habits. The NCS Virtual Campus of Schools will offer a high-quality education, incorporating feedback we received from parents regarding the program that we implemented in the spring. Safety continues to be our number one priority, and we want to ensure families have a variety of options for the upcoming school year.

The district is remaining nimble and is prepared for a temporary shift to districtwide remote learning if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 that requires schools to pause in-person instruction. The district’s one-to-one technology model will ensure that students have access to a computer, laptop or tablet with an internet connection, allowing the district to maintain a continuity of learning during these temporary changes. Teachers and staff will be equipped with new professional development opportunities specific to virtual learning before the school year starts, to help ensure the transition is smooth. We also plan to offer training for parents and guardians, who indicated an interest in such an option in our parent survey.

We are working with our transportation partners to balance the number of students per bus and provide social distancing for our riders as well. With hundreds of daily bus runs and a varying number of riders each day and season, we will continue to work to find the best ways to protect our students in this setting.

Cleaning is a key component to providing students and staff with a safe environment and peace of mind. The district has a reliable cleaning protocol that will help mitigate health risks. All cleaning protocols and products meet industry standards and the recommendations set by governmental health organizations. These rigorous standards apply to classrooms, offices, athletic facilities, food preparation areas, common areas and hard surfaces in every building. Throughout the school year, all learning environments will be deep-cleaned, and custodial staff will receive regular training throughout the school year to ensure that these procedures are effective and efficient.

While this update provides only a glimpse of the district’s return to school plan, we are working tirelessly to finalize our full plan, which we expect to release at the end of the month.

We are grateful to parents and the community for continuing to support the well-being of our students, and for entrusting us with the continued learning process during this difficult time. As always, go, Vikes!

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