NKSD startup: ‘Think big, start small, go slow’

North Kitsap School District hosted a virtual town hall Tuesday night in an effort to answer questions about the return to in-person attendance – for some to start Nov. 9.

“I’m going to start framing these reopening plans through words of a wise mentor of mine, who once told me to think big, start small, and go slow,” Superindent Lauryn Evans said.

“What I mean by that is we are thinking big because we are planning now. We are getting all of the procedures, all of the protocols, all of the PPE, all of the social distancing markers, all of the things that need to happen for us to come back into the buildings. We are doing it now regardless of when the return date might be.”

The district still plans to hold in-person instruction beginning Nov. 9 for pre-kindergarten through second-graders with the hope to slowly add grades 3 to 5 and then open secondary schools after winter break in January. The district hopes to bring in Special Education students based on need.

Evans noted that return dates could change.

“The return date is contingent on case trend (COVID-19) data for our county, and it’s also contingent on our ability to staff the reopening,” Evans said.

The Bainbridge Island School District announced this week that it has pushed back its opening date due to a lack of enough staff.

Evans talked about some specifics of the re-entry plan, such as school and bus schedules, food service and more.

Initially, the district was looking at a staggered model of sending kids to a full day of school two days a week, with students attending on alternate days and learning online the other days. The logistics of that plan with regard to food service, transportation and student wellness showed that was not feasible.

“Chief around that was food service, P.E., recess and then also just the wearing of masks and the social-emotional wellness of our students and the school setting,” Evans said.

Instead, the district has opted for a hybrid cohort model, where students will attend school four days a week with morning and afternoon sessions, to allow for social distancing in the classroom as well and only require students to wear face masks for three hours as opposed to six.

“There are several advantages to this, namely it allows students to have breaks from mask-wearing. The other part is it also allows us to facilitate operational issues, including transportation, food service and management of students around the building,” Evans said.

Simply put, students would attend school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday used as an asynchronous learning and building cleaning day. The morning cohort would go from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and the afternoon session from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The school day would focus on math, English Language Arts and social-emotional wellness.

The district estimates there will be less than 100 kids at each of six elementary campuses.

In terms of recess, the district is offering guided walks and other physical activities rather open play.

Getting into the schools each day will have its own set of requirements.

Students, staff and teachers will be required to have signed attestations acknowledging that they do not have symptoms of COVID or have been exposed to the virus in addition to temperature checks.

“This is not a North Kitsap rule, this is a Department of Health requirement,” Evans said.

The attestation documents will be distributed to NKSD families Nov. 4. Students cannot board the bus or enter school without these documents, and they must be signed.

Temperatures will be checked at school; if students have a fever they will be isolated from others until a parent or guardian picks them up.

If a student, teacher or staff member gets sick a process is in place.

“Our response will be situationally dependent based on what we are presented with,” Evans said. “If an individual reports that they have COVID or that they are showing symptoms we are going to be having that person report to an isolation room and keep them apart from everyone and have a family member come pick them up and ensure that the principal is notified.

“And then we have a chain of command through the district who will then work directly with the Kitsap Public Health Department. From that point forward our response is driven largely by the health department.”