Northwestern schools to start fall in-person, provide online model

Northwestern Local Schools will start the school year with two models with goal being to “provide the best possible options” for students, the district superintendent said.

“We are looking at a plan to reduce the number of students in each classroom so we can social distance our students,” said Superintendent Jesse Steiner. “We are offering in-person and online options.”

The district intends to start the year using an in-person learning model but will also provide an online learning model to those not comfortable with their students attending in-school, Steiner said. Parents must sign up for this model by Aug. 7.

For the in-person model, students will attend five days a week and teachers will use a combination of Google Classroom lessons and live instructions.

For those that choose the online model, it will be curriculum purchased from a vendor and Northwestern teachers will not be teaching the online classes.

“Students who elect to take online classes will have the option to switch to in-person learning at the start of the second semester because students who are taking online classes are using a different curriculum, it may be difficult for them to transition back into the Warrior In-Person model of education,” Steiner said.

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The district will also provide a remote learning model, which is different than the online learning, for the students who choose in-person but are sick and cannot attend class, Steiner said. Students can log into Google Classroom at their scheduled class time to participate.

“The intent of this form of education is for students to be able to keep up with their classwork if they are out of school for a short period of time,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the district would like to start school on Aug. 19, but it may be pushed back as it depends on if they have all their safety measures in place. He said the district plans to make the official decision on Aug. 11.

Seth Huber, the father of a third and fifth grader said his family “isn’t too happy” with the reopening plans.

“Our children are social butterflies and enjoy going to school, but unfortunately this year we will probably end up home schooling our kids and enroll them into the K12 program because of Northwestern’s plan to do in person schooling,” Huber said. “We are doing what we can to keep our children and us safe.”

Another father said he thinks the sooner kids are back in school, the better off they will be.

“My child will be back in the classroom and I have no issues with it… We have family members that have health issues and would be in great peril if they caught it and they agree he needs to go, and the risk is worth the reward,” said Shane Myers, who has a child starting high school.

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All staff and volunteers will be required to wear face masks unless it’s unsafe to do so or if it will interfere with learning, Steiner said.

Students in grades 4-12 are required to wear masks while in specific areas such as hallways, lockers, restrooms, cafeterias and offices, while entering, exiting or moving around the classrooms, and when working directly with staff or other students. It’s strongly recommended for students in grades 3-12 to also wear one at all other times.

It’s also strongly recommended for students in grades PK-3 to wear a mask and it may be asked of the student when working directly with staff or other students, and for all students to wear one while on the bus.

Huber said he believes masks can “help slow the spread, but not stop it,” but Myers thinks they are just a “sense of security.”

Other guidelines include assessing for symptoms by conducting daily health checks before going to school, frequent cleaning and sanitizing of inside the buildings and classrooms, requiring frequent hand washing and making hand sanitizer available throughout the day. Physical barriers will be placed between students where tables are used and desks will be spaced as far apart as possible in classrooms. The district will avoid using shared materials, limit visitors, add more lunch periods, and stagger class changes to reduce the number of students in specific areas.