The Northampton School Board met on Monday, July 19 to discuss the health and safety plan for the upcoming school year; also, many residents were present at the meeting to discuss their objections to book donations from “The Conscious Kid,” an organization describing itself as “an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth, [supporting] organizations, families and educators in taking action to disrupt racism in kids.”
Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik and assistant superintendent Dr. Michelle Schoeneberger gave a presentation describing the key points of the district’s health and safety plan. The plan, which is required by Pennsylvania law, is an ever-changing document that will continue to evolve as the pandemic moves forward, said Kovalchik.
Masks will be optional inside district buildings, but will be required on buses per state mandates. Further, the district hopes to keep social distancing up to three feet when possible. A symptoms screening will be sent out once a week to parents/guardians on Sunday night; students or staff members experiencing COVID-like symptoms will be asked to stay home. Positive cases must be reported to the district to allow for contract tracing if necessary. Plexiglass screens will be in front of the cafeteria cashiers, and splash guards will cover all food.
The first day for students will be Monday, August 30. All schools will resume their normal start and end times, since buses will not be cleaned between each run.
Schoeneberger discussed the programs in place to address learning gaps and provide for students’ social and emotional health. The district’s goal with these programs was to enhance the programs they already had in place to better meet the needs of their students.
The second of three Summer Bridge sessions will wrap up on July 22; the final session will run from July 26 to August 12. Other programs in place include a school-based therapy program through St. Luke’s. Starting this school year, the district will add another therapist to the elementary schools; the middle school and high school each have one. NASD also partners with Valley Youth House to provide one-on-one and small group counseling, in addition to their school counselors.
Potential book donations from The Conscious Kid was another highly discussed topic. Many residents expressed that they wanted the board to deny the donations. One resident brought up the newly found connection between The Conscious Kid, Hasbro, and critical race theory.
They also communicated that they have raised their children to judge people on their character and not their skin color, which one resident argued is not the school district’s place.
Kovalchik expressed that if the district were to accept the donations, the books would not be a required read or used as a part of the curriculum. Rather, they would be placed in the library or guidance counselors’ office to be used as a resource for those who might benefit from them.
After a lot of back and forth discussion, the board motioned to table making a decision on the book donations from Conscious Kid.
In other business, the Northampton Area School District will be launching their new website as of July 20. Lehigh Elementary School will hold two open houses on Saturday, August 14 from 8 a.m. to 2p.m. and Thursday, August 18 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The building is ready to accept students for the upcoming year, but construction activity will continue for a while longer.
The next Northampton Area School District board meeting will be held on Monday, August 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria.