A private school reopens; public schools plan small gatherings to help kids

 

Nampa Christian School students returned to class Monday. But they weren’t allowed to use their lockers.

Students congregate at lockers, which are stacked one on top of another, shoulder to shoulder, superintendent Greg Wiles said. It’s not exactly a recipe for social distancing, so administrators asked students to bring their backpacks instead.

Between 65 and 70 percent of Nampa Christian’s students returned to school Monday, as the Treasure Valley private school became one of the first in Idaho to reopen following coronavirus-related closures. The move comes after Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home order expired last week.

Public schools face a steeper road to re-opening. They must comply with State Board of Education criteria, which on Monday night were clarified to restrict school gatherings to fewer than 10 people through the end of May. Some districts have said they won’t reopen this school year, but others are forging ahead with plans to allow students limited access to campus.

Here’s how two schools plan to keep students safe as they reopen their doors.

Photo courtesy Nampa Christian

Nampa Christian

The school has limited its school hours, eliminated busing and hot lunch and canceled gatherings such as assemblies and chapel services. On Monday, Wiles said the school learned a few more practical tricks for keeping kids safe as well.

Administrators swapped out tables in one classroom for individual desks, for example, after social distancing proved to be a challenge. Staff also put down tape in the hallways to mark out where students should stand during passing periods to give one another enough space.

“It’s easier to have a focal point for them to go to,” Wiles said. “Get on the blue tape.”

Blue tape on the floors, showing kids where to stand during social-distancing. Photo courtesy Nampa Christian.

For the most part, students “self governed quite a bit,”  Wiles said. Lunchtime got more difficult, so instead of eating inside classrooms, as initially planned, Nampa Christian moved lunch outside so students could keep safe distances from one another in the fresh air.

Students who don’t want to come to school can continue learning from home, Wiles said. Also, teachers considered at high risk for COVID-19 are allowed to teach remotely. On Monday, Nampa Christian hired substitute teachers to help supervise classrooms while teachers ran instruction from home.

“We’re going to find some holes in what we’re doing and we’re going to regroup and try to figure out ways to make sure we’re sticking with our plan, and make it even better for tomorrow,” Wiles told EdNews Monday.

Payette High School 

The Payette School District announced it will allow high school students who need help with assignments to visit campus starting Tuesday. Seating is limited and students will be staggered.

“We’re really looking at some of those kids that just need a little more guidance,” Superintendent Robin Gilbert said, including English Language Learners, Special Education students and students who have not been connecting with their teachers.

“Some might be scheduled in once, some might be scheduled in twice a week, it really just depends on the kid,” Gilbert said.

The district has built limited, specialized seating, where students and teachers will be separated by a plexiglass shield. The school plans to sanitize work stations after each use.

Students are asked to contact their teachers to arrange a meeting time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. For more information, students can call 208-642-3327.

Has your school announced plans to open its doors in some fashion? Contact Sami Edge at [email protected]

Sami Edge

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

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