NCHS returns to in-person learning with new protocols, procedures

NCHS students return to in-person learning, starting with 9th graders on Monday, Oct. 19, and 10-12th graders on Oct. 26.

Unit 5 will be staggering the students’ return over the two weeks to “adjust processes, as needed, with fewer students in the buildings,” Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle said in an email to Unit 5 families.

The district will implement hybrid learning to reduce the number of students in school buildings each day. Students with last names beginning A-K will attend in-person Mondays and Thursdays; students with last names beginning L-Z will attend Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be a remote learning day for all students.

Unit 5 families were presented with the option for students to continue the semester fully remote or return to school in a hybrid format.

“I understand that a change to how instruction is delivered may be uncomfortable for some but believe that the benefit to having students back in-person is worth it,” Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle said.

Students opting to return to NCHS can expect some changes to the school experience designed to encourage social distancing and emphasize sanitation.

Lunch poses a logistical challenge, one the school is addressing by physically dividing the cafeteria space, creating alternate eating locations, and offering outdoor seating.

“Because we can only have 50 people in one space,” Chapman said, “there’ll be a large curtain that will…cut the cafeteria into two.”
The administration was “toying around with what one-way hallways and one-way staircases look like,” NCHS principal Dr. Trevor Chapman said, but could not implement them because “logistically that is difficult in a building our size.”
While attempting to minimize students’ close contact, Normal Community is working to “drastically reduce high touch areas” throughout the school by upgrading water fountains to touchless water bottle fillers and adding automatic hand-sanitizing stations.
Wednesdays and weekends will be reserved for deeper cleaning of the building, and custodians will follow new safety and sanitization protocols, continually “wiping down door handles, doors, sinks, faucets,” Dr. Chapman said.

Students and teachers will also play a role in classroom sanitation as they disinfectant and wipe down desks after each class period.
COVID-19 screening students and their families will be responsible for submitting each day their child attends in-person.

Unit 5 is also implementing a student COVID-19 self-certification process using the app Unit 5 Safe, where families will respond to the coronavirus screening questions each day.

Each morning, the COVID certification list will be emailed to all classroom teachers, and staff will screen any students who have not completed the process in the multipurpose room.

Families that fail to certify will be contacting by NCHS staff to complete the screening if they are under 18 verbally. A student 18 or older legally may self-certify.

Students returning to NCHS are required to wear a mask, Dr. Chapman said, with exceptions including those with a doctor’s note, adding that “the Superintendent has been pretty clear about” the requirement. Reminders will be given to students not following proper mask-wearing procedures.

The building’s new procedures are meant to create a safe environment for returning students and staff, changes that Chapman is “very hopeful will help us.”