Student threatens to 'shoot up' class at Nazareth middle school


NAZARETH, Pa. - The Nazareth Area School District dropped its plan to hold classes in-person and will instead provide a hybrid program combining time in school and remote study, along with its fully cyber option.

Superintendent Dennis Riker told the school board Tuesday night that state recommendations issued a day earlier and the degree of coronavirus spread in Northampton County dictated the change.

The board will vote on the plan Aug. 18.

"I need to protect everyone," Riker said of the new plan, which he conceded will not be popular.

He also took a harder line on wearing masks than he did at the board's last meeting.

"Children are required to wear a mask while in school, period," he said. "If a child refuses to, there need to be severe consequences."

Some exceptions will be made and face shields are also acceptable.

Riker said that 75% of parents wanted their children to attend school full time, the option presented in July along with the fully remote Blue Eagle Cyber Academy.

He said that if the spread of the virus abates in the county, Nazareth could offer full-time instruction later this year. But if infections increase, it could move to fully remote education.

"These are very scary times," he said, asking for all to work together for the good of the schools and the district.

Details were to be posted Wednesday on the NASD website.

Students with last names starting with A through K will report to school Tuesdays and Thursdays; students with last names starting with L through Z will attend Wednesdays and Fridays.

No students in either program will have classes on Mondays, but independent work will be assigned.

Students with individual education programs or attending the Career Institute of Technology will go to school five days per week.

Parents who want to switch their children's programs should contact the district by the end of Thursday, Riker said.

The district is still working out details of providing lunches for the days students are not in school, he said.

"Please remember, this (state) announcement only came out yesterday afternoon," Riker said.

He and his staff took more than 100 questions at the end of the Zoom meeting.

Board member Denise Glaros thanked Riker and the administration for having a backup plan ready. President Linda Stubits set a vote on the plan for next Tuesday, noting that more change is always possible.

Riker said that the district will not take students' temperatures before they enter school because of the bottleneck that would create, plus privacy issues.

He also said that people with COVID-19 do not always exhibit symptoms.

Classes will start Aug. 31, with the cyber academy beginning a week later. In-school students will attend for half-sessions for the first four days to help them adjust to the new system.

"It's not going to be the same," Riker said. "Everyone needs to understand that."

Sports and band programs will continue based on previous guidelines.

Class schedules and homeroom assignments will be available later than usual, Riker said, as the administration works out details of the new system.

"We have a lot to do in three weeks," he said.

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