Edwardsburg Public Schools prioritize students as staff continue to adjust to COVID-19 mandates

EDWARDSBURG — Evidence of Edwardsburg Intermediate School’s dedication to excellence and student success is easy to see when walking through its building. A banner declaring it a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School hangs in the cafeteria. A medallion with the distinction greets those entering through the front door. Inside the conference room, framed newspaper clippings and photos commemorate the award.

In September 2020, it was announced that Edwardsburg Intermediate School was named a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School, based on a nomination from the state department and a comprehensive application process. The Intermediate School was one of 367 schools in the nation and 15 schools from Michigan to be recognized in 2020.

Now in the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year, Principal Dan Nommay and Superintendent Jim Knoll said they are committed to retaining that same level of excellence despite continual changes and adjustments due to COVID-19 mandates.

“It has really acknowledged the things that we are doing,” Nommay said of the Blue Ribbon award. “We are always going to look at not only how we can reach that same level, but how we can make things better. The bar has been set high, but we continue to reach for a higher bar.”

While both Knoll and Nommay hope to achieve a Blue Ribbon award again, they said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would likely make that impossible for 2021 due to a lack of state testing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in many of the district’s plans for the 2020-2021 school year beyond awards. Knoll said the staff has been working diligently since students returned for the second semester to adjust to new COVID-19 mandates and best practices learned during the previous semester.

“We’ve purchased new technology. We are looking at changing and tweaking schedules between buildings,” Knoll said. “Working with the county health department, we have been adjusting our quarantining, our rules for cleaning. All of those have been changed to adjust to CDC best practices.”

Despite the challenges, Knoll said he was proud of how students, staff and teachers have been handling the changes. Also proud was school board president Birdella Holdread. Though the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unprecedented during her many years on the board, she said the district has stepped up.

“As a board, we are very pleased with the students and very grateful we have such a wonderful administration and staff to keep us heading in the right direction,” Holdread said. “We are always moving ahead.”

The district is currently in the midst of the strategic planning process that was previously halted due to COVID-19. Knoll said the plan would continue to guide and move Edwardsburg schools forward.

“We’ve been so closed down operationally, it will be nice to get that back moving,” he said.

As the district heads further into the year, Knoll and Nommay said Edwardsburg Public Schools would continue to adjust to best practices and promote academic excellence and support among its students, despite the pandemic’s continuing challenges.

“What’s always in my mind after so many years of doing this is, ‘what is best for the child? How are we going to do what is best for the child?’” Nommay said.

“During the challenging times, you have to remember what your vision is,” Knoll said. “For us, that is how we can give students a quality education.”

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