Norwood Public School District’s board of education held a special session Thursday to address important school business. During that meeting, school board member Nancy Browning resigned. The board will now work to appoint someone to replace Browning’s vacancy.

Norwood Public Schools has held live, in-person learning all year, but that changed after Thanksgiving break due to a staff member being ill with COVID-19. As a result, multiple grades were forced to quarantine at home. Some students have also had the coronavirus, and others showed symptoms but chose not to take the COVID-19 test. 

The elementary grades also went to remote learning when a shortage of substitute teachers made in-person instruction impossible. Two substitutes were forced to quarantine, and some staff had pre-arranged absences that made getting coverage for classrooms impossible.

Now, the district’s plan, assuming nothing changes with regard to the virus and the local infection rate, is for all students to be back to in-person learning on Jan. 5 with a goal to remain that way for the rest of the school year.  

(Nucla High School and Middle School was also closed after the Thanksgiving break due to a positive COVID-19 case in the school. West End Public Schools Superintendent Clint Wytulka told The Norwood Post that his district also plans to reopen for live, in-person learning on Jan. 5.)

“Our biggest barrier is the lack of subs due to staff illness or exposure, but the state and local county health are supporting schools, and the quarantine period is being reduced,” Norwood co-principal Perri Gipner said.

To support school staff, the district is offering voluntary COVID-19 testing.

And, going forward into the new year, all students will be required to wear a mask on campus.

The school board approved to maintain mask wearing for grades kindergarten through 12. Prior to the Thanksgiving break, masks for grades kindergarten through 4 were strongly encouraged in the classroom, but only required in the common areas. Now, the district is hoping to curtail illness, and not just COVID-19, by making the masks mandatory throughout the school after the holiday season.

Gipner said she saw board’s ruling on masks in schools as a way to “try and keep staff as protected as possible and decrease the need for subs.”

In other school news, Ken Lawrence also resigned as school superintendent, though he will remain in his role through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

The school board has struggled to find a long-term superintendent since Dave Crews resigned from the position in 2019. Then, veteran administrator Bette Nickell took the reins of the Norwood district and thought she’d stay indefinitely until the board found a permanent replacement. That changed last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic initially struck, and Nickell stepped down because of her age.

This year, the board approved a shared leadership approach with Lawrence, Gipner and co-principal Sara Rasmussen guiding the district.

With Lawrence’s notice of resignation last week, the board has started the process of a superintendent search once again. A special board meeting was held on Dec. 22 to work with the company who is facilitating that search.