Northampton Press

Sunday, July 5, 2020

School activities set to resume

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

Sports, band practices will begin July 1

Strike up the band!

Players, take the field.

Student athletes and coaches for Konkrete Kids fall sports teams and members of Big “N” Marching Band are scheduled to return July 1 to the Northampton Area High School, Northampton Area Middle School and Al Erdosy Stadium secondary schools’ campus after Northampton County enters the green phase of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s state reopening plan, scheduled for June 26.

Fall sports teams include football, soccer, field hockey, cross-country, volleyball, tennis and golf.

Northampton Area School District administration officials are to return July 1 to the administration building and other facilities.

“We’ll be following the health standards,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said at the June 22 board of education meeting, held using the Google Meet online platform.

Schools throughout the state are allowed to open July 1, according to a June 3 announcement by Wolf. Schools were closed March 13 to curb the COVID-19 community spread.

Also returning to work July 1 in NASD are 12-month employees and administration support staff.

“I think people are excited to go back to work. But they’re also concerned about their health and safety,” Kovalchik said.

According to Kovalchik, the maintenance staff has been back for the last several weeks.

“The COVID-19 (protocol) changes daily,” Kovalchik said. “We will be in the green phase June 26. This plan is for our athletes and band to return.”

The NASD school board voted 7-0 to approve the June 15 athletics and activities health and safety plan, which is 17 pages, and the marching band health and safety plan, which is four pages, at the June 22 meeting.

“This is really the first step for our students to come back to campus and get back into the flow,” Kovalchik said.

Kovalchik consulted with St. Luke’s University Health Network experts on the plans, which will be posted on the NASD website, nasdschools.org, and communicated to coaches, staff, parents and students.

“This is all part of the state requirements,” Kovalchik said.

He also discussed plans for the July 24 NAHS Class of 2020 graduation ceremony at the stadium. Rain dates are July 25 and 26 at the stadium.

Kovalchik updated students and parents about the ceremony in a June 18 video chat posted on the district website.

“We’re looking to livestream so that those who can’t attend the ceremony can see it. We will record it, and we can send that out to you once it’s completed,” Kovalchik said.

Valedictorian, salutatorian and class officers’ speeches would be videotaped remotely and would be combined in the completed video.

Kovalchik reported a second option mentioned in the video, with no one seated in the stadium, is likely.

“Students would come in groups,” Kovalchik said. “The first group might involve 150 students. But we would not be sitting in the bleachers.”

Students would enter wearing caps and gowns, go to the stage and receive diplomas.

“We want to have a ceremony. We want to recognize our students. But there are certain guidelines we have to follow,” Kovalchik added. “The goal is to recognize the Class of 2020 and all of their accomplishments during the course of their career here in the Northampton Area School District.”

The final plan for the Class of 2020 graduation ceremony is expected to be disseminated the week of July 6.

In the June 18 video, Kovalchik thanked seniors for returning their Chromebooks, textbooks and education materials.

“We are at 99-percent return,” Kovalchik said.

In the second video posted June 18 about the 2020-21 school year, Kovalchik said the high school and middle school schedule may be reduced to six periods to stagger classes in order to meet health and safety protocols.

“Each school district must complete a health and safety plan that must be board-of-education approved,” Kovalchik said.

More information on health and safety protocols is expected in Kovalchik’s next district website video.

The three options for instruction are in-person, the Kids E-Learning Program and NASD cyberschool.

“What I’m talking about will be sent to you in an email once we finalize that plan,” Kovalchik said.

He will send out a questionnaire to ascertain parents’ preferences for their children’s education in a physical building and concerning transportation.

“We’re going to make a final decision on all of this. I pushed that back a little bit from July 4 because some things are changing so rapidly,” Kovalchik said.

School directors and officials are expected to meet in person for the next board meeting, 6:30 p.m. July 13 in the NAHS cafeteria to allow social-distancing protocol, Kovalchik said, adding face masks must be worn by those attending the board meeting.

“In green, the capacity is 250. Because of the size of the cafeteria, we can safely space people,” Kovalchik said. “We are going to get in there and figure everything out. If it is a problem — and I don’t see it becoming a problem — we will have to make other adjustments.

“The goal is to have the academic plan to be completed for this fall so that everyone who is in the district or who moves into the district knows the plan,” Kovalchik said regarding the July meeting.

“I would like to thank all of the board members for these virtual meetings. We are all looking forward to next month when we can all meet and see each other,” board President David Gogel said.