Administration continues to monitor COVID-19 plan

Challenges cause protocols to be flexible each year


Photo by: Leo Moten

Superintendent Geoff Bontrager updating the NWCS COVID precautions and plans.

Leo Moten, Web Journalist

   COVID-19 has proven to be a major obstacle for the administration when deciding what procedures to follow. After recent COVID-19 related school closures around the state, Northwest remained open and followed its protocols. 

   These decisions have been challenging and require a lot of planning and communication.

   Currently, the administration has created a system of guidelines and procedures, and the Director of Compliance and Communications Kelly Grygiel is in charge of maintaining this system. She has the task of developing a process that will be effective for all students and staff and also be flexible to change each year if needed. 

  “We built a system from the ground up, and when we made the decisions, we had to ask ourselves many questions regarding others, and it’s changing every year,” said Grygiel. 

   The district has created many options for students and parents, one being an app containing necessary information. This app displays the Northwest Community Schools (NWCS) COVID-19 Dashboard, which includes student and staff COVID-19 forms and information about the number of cases in each district building.

Superintendent Geoff Bontrager has worked closely with Principal Scott Buchler to configure a plan to deal with the virus effectively while still giving the students the best opportunity to learn.

   “The NWCS shows you all the numbers, and it keeps track of each building’s current positives. In addition to that, the app also has reporting tools, and it is recommended that anyone who gets tested should immediately go fill out the reporting tool,” said Principal Scott Buchler.

   COVID-19’s unpredictability is changing how the Northwest administration plans to prepare for possible future events, such as a future outbreak.

   “We have always got plans. [Superintendent] Bontrager is committed to not going virtual unless mandated because, from previous experience, we have learned that virtual learning is not best for the students. Students should know they always have the opportunity to sign up for virtual,” said Buchler. 

   Along with encouraging students to stay home if they experience any sick-like symptoms, they are also encouraging them to wear masks if they wish to do so. 

   “We have given people a choice for masks. I stand at the front door every morning, and I hand masks out if anyone chooses to wear one. We also encourage you to stay home if you are sick,” said Buchler. 

  With an ever-changing disease, the administration understands the need for procedures and protocols, but COVID is difficult to predict. When Superintendent Bontrager started ten years ago, it was dramatically different then than it is now. COVID has changed everything. 

   “There has never been a time where the script has flipped. The majority of my job is different in the sense that I always use past protocol decision-making when working with my team. What’s so interesting about COVID is the fact that everything is new,” said Bontrager.

   The administration had seen an increase in issues during a recent COVID-19 outbreak which required following protocols from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Jackson Health Department.

   “All of it has been challenging; it has completely changed my role and what I do as a superintendent on a daily basis. There is so much that goes into the delivery of instruction, such as making sure we are following CDC’s rules and protocols,” said Bontrager. 

While the pandemic is still ongoing, many challenges lie ahead for the administration to face. However, they plan to continue working as a team and community to overcome future obstacles.