Normally, the fact that Nampa Christian Schools were welcoming students back into the classroom wouldn't make national news headlines. But, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, these aren't normal times. Instead, the private school in Idaho reopened classrooms to students earlier this week while a number of other states continue to implement stay-at-home orders and coronavirus-related closures.
"We will be taking appropriate action within this modified opening to help keep our faculty, staff, students and families safe," Nampa Christian Schools Superintendent Greg Wiles said in a statement to CNN. Romper has reached out to Nampa Christian Schools for additional comment, but did not receive a response.
Nampa Christian Schools, which serves roughly 730 students from preschool age to high school across two campuses in Nampa, Idaho, opened its doors to students on Monday, according to local ABC News affiliate KIVI6. But while the school has returned to in-person learning, things aren't exactly business as usual at Nampa Christian Schools.
Rather than a traditional five-day school week with an eight-hour school day each day, Nampa Christian School has moved to a four-day week and a roughly five-hour school day, according to Education Week. The school has also shortened passing periods between classes and temporarily canceled school bus routes, cafeteria hot lunches, assemblies, and chapel service, East Idaho News reported. Classrooms that previously sat students at tables, have swapped those for individual desks in an effort to increase the physical distance between students.
In an effort to aid students' social distancing efforts between classes, the school has used blue tape to mark distances of six feet throughout hallways, East Idaho News reported. Lunch time has been moved outside and students have been barred from using their lockers — an area where students tend to congregate shoulder to shoulder.
The school has said that, so far, the changes seem to be working. "You can do everything in theory, but when you put it in practice, you have say, 'How did it work for us?'" Education Week reported Wiles said. "So far it's going really well."
However, Wiled noted that the school's small size likely helped in not only the implementation of different social distancing and safety precautions but in administrators' continued evaluation of their effectiveness. "We are able to do that because we are a small school," he said, Education Week reported. Additionally, Wiles said roughly 30% of students had opted not to return to campus and would instead continue with remote learning. The school is also allowing teachers with a higher risk of illness to teach from home, according to Education Week.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little lifted the state's stay-at-home order on April 30 and has since begun a four-phase plan to reopen the state. Phase two of that plan, which is expected to begin May 16, would allow for gatherings of less than 10 when appropriate physical distancing and precautionary measures are taken, East Idaho News has reported. On Monday, the news outlet reported Idaho's State Board of Education had moved to align its reopening criteria for local public schools with the governor's plan. Adherence to Little's 10 or less social gathering rule makes it unlikely that any public schools in the state will reopen for in-classroom learning before the end of the academic year.
Until then, schools both inside and outside Idaho will likely be keeping a close eye on Nampa Christian Schools in an effort to see which of its reopening procedures are a success.
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