EDUCATION — Northwestern School Corp. Superintendent Kristen Bilkey estimates 85 to 90 percent of students will return to school in person.

Northwestern School Corporation is offering multiple ways for students to attend school for the coming academic year.

If families wish not to have their students attend the school year in-person, they can choose to have their students continue their education either through distance learning or virtual learning (grades 7 to 12 only). While Northwestern Superintendent Kristen Bilkey believes around 85 to 90 percent of students will be back on campus when school starts on Aug. 11, the additional options will be valuable to families that aren’t ready to have their students return.

“We want our parents to feel like we value their feelings and the feelings of their students. Every family has a different situation, and some may live with individuals that are more vulnerable. So, the fear is not even maybe about their students, but it’s about themselves or a grandparent or a healthcare worker,” she said. “Whatever the reason is, we value their emotions, their feelings, their beliefs, and we wanted to provide those opportunities to choose the option that best fits their families and their needs. Of course, we want everybody back. That’s the ultimate goal. But we know that there would be concerns.”

With the distance learning option, students still will be taught by Northwestern teachers and can participate in any type of extracurricular or co-curricular athletics. The lessons will be recorded, and students will have a certain amount of time to watch and complete the assignments. There will be office hours and designated times for students to interact with their teacher or teachers.

“Some students will be great at it because they’re very motivated, and they can do that. Or maybe for them it’s a better way to do it. They can rewind the teacher. They can stop it and do some of the work and go back if they have questions,” Bilkey said. “So, there are lots of benefits for those students who feel self-motivated and can really progress.”

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by making a contribution.

The students in distance learning must keep the same pace as students in the classroom, and they essentially will be following along with their peers who are in the classroom. This way, Bilkey said, distance learning students will have the opportunity to switch back to in-person and pick up right where they were should they choose to do so.

The virtual option, on the other hand, is for grades 7 to 12 only, and those students will be taught through an online provider and go at their own pace. Bilkey said this option would be good for students with difficult schedules.

However, in both options, students still are considered Northwestern students and will graduate with Northwestern diplomas.

Back on campus, a number of changes have been put in place to keep students, faculty, and staff as safe as possible. Northwestern released a plan that detailed all of the changes, which included the addition of partitions, masks, and social distancing policies.

“Will there be bumps in the road at first? Absolutely because this is a new offering for us. This is new for a teacher who will be in charge of that. We know that. But we’re just going to ask patience from our families, and we’re going to get it right,” said Bilkey.