Niles High School takes extra day for spring break

NILES – Spring break began a day early for Niles High School students on Thursday.

“Today was the first day we went remote, other than when were advised by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to go remote,” Principal Molly Brawley said. “I feel very fortunate with that.”

The high school had many students in quarantine by Thursday. Brawley said by giving students an extra day at home, she hoped it would give them more time to finish their quarantines and be able to return to in-person instruction on April 12. April 2, Good Friday, was already scheduled as a holiday off.

“It was a tough decision to make. We truly believe being in person is better,” Brawley said. “It’s harder to get substitute teachers.”

She joined Google Classroom sessions throughout the morning, as instructors gave instruction remotely.

“We are lucky we can live in both worlds. A year ago, we didn’t have this world. We have come a long way,” Brawley said.

With the rise of COVID-19 cases in the high school, Brawley said it is a trend being seen on the national level.

“It’s not just kids testing positive, they’re actually getting ill,” she said. “We have a mix of that here.”

Still, the mitigation practices put in place, like quarantining after an exposure, are things Brawley has confidence in.

“We ask that our parents screen students before they come every day. They have been fantastic about doing that,” Brawley said. “[Parents] will call us if anything is going on with their child. We will re-emphasize mitigation strategies when we get back into session.”

Vaccinations have helped instruction continue at the high school level, as teachers who may have a possible exposure are not as likely to have to quarantine.

“Our kids are so well trained, and the teachers are too,” Brawley said. “[The students] are getting really good at emailing their teachers for help. There’s a lot of things in place to help us through it.”

The school administrators are still working with the Berrien County Health Department, with case reporting, as well as to keep up with recommended precautions as the COVID-19 information changes.

Angie Marciniak, guidance secretary at Niles High School, is also a parent to a high school and a middle school student.

Over spring break, she said travel is in their plans, but with precautions.

“Families are going to be traveling, since no one was able to travel last year. We’ve been doing everything right,” Marciniak said. “It’s worrisome multiple families will be traveling together and going out to public spaces and letting their guards down. Everyone has to make the choice [to be cautious].”

Marciniak said while she and her husband are vaccinated against COVID-19, her children are not. One had COVID-19, which she believes he got from his workplace.

“We confirmed he had COVID-19 since he had the antibodies,” Marciniak said.

Her son quarantined at home after his exposure, and the family wore masks while at home and kept up their hand washing protocols. He was tested because of quarantine measures through the school. Though asymptomatic, the quarantine period and precautions kept the rest of the family from contracting the virus.

Over spring break, she said her family will be observing the same precautions they take at home.

“I can social distance in Michigan as well as I can elsewhere,” Marciniak said. “I’m not going to restaurants. We are not going to public beaches.”

She is hopeful that others will also do the same.

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