Dr. Erik Belcher

Napoleon Area City Schools Superintendent Dr. Erik Belcher talks about the district’s restart plan for the 2020-21 school year during Monday’s board of education meeting.

Napoleon Area City Schools has released its back-to-school plan and is intending to have students return to campus five days a week.

For preschool and grades one through 12, students with a last name starting with A-K will start school Aug. 27, while remaining students will begin school Aug. 28. Families with students scheduled to attend on both days can send all students Aug. 28. All students in preschool and grades one through 12 will be on campus starting Aug. 31.

For kindergarten, students with a last name starting A-K will start Sept. 1, while students with the last name starting with L-Z will begin Sept. 2. All kindergarten students will be on campus beginning Sept. 3.

The school’s original starting date was Aug. 26, but Superintendent Dr. Erik Belcher said that day will be utilized for staff to be trained on COVID-19 procedures and preparation. The staggered start days will be utilized to help everyone adjust to the new procedures.

“That’s basically going to give us half-classroom sizes,” Belcher said. “Our teachers are going to spend a lot of time with students, educating them how to wear a mask, where they have to wear a mask ... it’s going to be reteaching how we use the restrooms responsibly, how we walk up and down the hall.”

Classroom transitions will be limited at both buildings. Students in grades seven through 12 will be permitted to carry backpacks to reduce the need to return to their lockers.

Additional time will be built in between class changes and rotations for cleaning of desks and equipment. Release times between classes and dismissal times will be staggered to decrease traffic in hallways.

Families may choose to pursue an online option rather than have their children on campus. Students must be enrolled for a minimum of one academic quarter at a time and will still be eligible to participate in extra- and co-curricular activities. The deadline to sign up is Aug. 14.

Overall, Belcher said he feels the plan offers families choices on what’s best for their situation.

“What we feel, and what we believe, is the best education we give our kids is going to be in-person, with loving, caring teachers five days a week,” Belcher said. “We’ve been tasked with trying to do this in a safe and responsible manner.

“This plan is going to give families choices,” he continued. “I think, as a parent, that’s what our parents want. If they feel safe and secure with the protocols and safety things we have in place ... we have all of these in place to allow kids to come back five days a week in a responsible manner.”

However, he said families may have members with medical conditions or other considerations, so the online option will give them the alternative to learn from home.

All staff and students will be required to bring a face covering to school every day, and a stoplight system will be implemented so students know when they have to wear it. A green light will be used to indicate masks are not required such as during breaks or while eating and a red light will indicate when they should be wearing masks.

A health and safety protocol will be followed by the district, including students and staff must stay home if they are ill. Families are expected to screen their children each day to ensure they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19 — a fever of 100°F or greater, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If a student arrives to school and they are ill, they will be assessed by the nursing staff.

Belcher said the district needs help from parents in three areas — not sending their kids to school when they are sick, sending them to school with a clean face mask every day and encouraging their children to practice social distancing.

“I encourage, I will plead for our parents and our guardians, just do a few things to help us with this,” Belcher said. “Headaches, those kinds of things, err on the side of caution, we’ll work with them, we’ll work with those families. We just want to have a safe place.

“If we all do that, I think we give this plan the best chance for success,” he added.

In the cafeteria, there will be fewer students per table and assigned seating may be utilized. Students will be permitted to carry water bottles, and drinking fountains with dispensers for water bottles will be available.

The plan is subject to change based on guidance from state and local health officials. A stoplight system will be used to identify the different options, including green for all students on campus; yellow for completely remote online learning with their classroom teacher as determined by the district, building or classroom, similar to how the 2019-20 school year ended; and red for students who are enrolled online only.

E-mail comments to jenl@northwestsignal.net.

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