• August 12, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    The start of the 2020 school year is fast approaching, and I want to keep you updated on our most recent planning efforts. While I hate to inundate families with updates, we promised to keep you informed as we get closer to the first day of school, and we continue to monitor our ever-changing situation. I know any changes can be very frustrating, but our overall goal continues to be to allow students to attend school in-person as safely as possible.

    When we started writing the back to school draft plan, there were less than 20 school-aged children in Jefferson County who had tested positive for COVID-19. Since that time, the number of cases from ages 0-19 in our county has grown to 179 as of today. As we continue to plan for the reopening of school, the biggest factor we must account for is how to maintain in-person school while adhering to increased social distancing guidelines. We need to do all we can to mitigate the spread of the virus and limit the number of students and staff from the possibility of being quarantined. 

    We realize that opinions and views on the subject vary within our community, and we have done our best to give everyone options by offering both in-person and online options through OnLionEdu. As of this writing, nearly 30 percent of our families have selected OnLionEdu. 

    In our elementary schools, we have over 700 students participating in OnLionEdu. In terms of numbers, this essentially makes the virtual option a new school. In order to continue a five days a week, in-person learning option at the elementary level, we need to invest in more staff to reduce the number of students in classrooms and to cover our virtual learning community. We are continuing to do all we can to support our families and serve as many students in-person as we safely can.

    At the middle school and high school levels, however, the schedules are built on individual student course selections which makes things a bit more complicated. While the enrollment in the OnLionEdu option has helped reduce class sizes and overall building capacities, it is still not enough to adhere to the distance guidelines that need to be followed. As a result, we need to make additional efforts to reduce our overall class sizes and student populations. 

    Recognizing that the virus has spread more among teenagers and that high school and middle school schedules do not accommodate cohorting, we are preparing for a move to a hybrid model for the middle schools and high school, where students will partially attend in-person and partially in a virtual environment. 

    The hybrid schedule is necessary as more social distancing is required. Students will be divided into two groups to allow for social distancing. While one group attends in person, the other group will attend virtually. Groups will be determined by splitting the enrollment in the schools, keeping households together and on the same schedule. In addition to helping reduce contact in the classroom, this model will reduce numbers of students in hallways during passing times, in community locations such as cafeterias, and reduce the number of students on school buses. The more contact is reduced, the more we can help control the spread of the virus. Not only will the reduction in numbers help mitigate the spread, it will help in contact tracing efforts if a positive case is identified. 

    While this is by no means ideal, we believe it is the safest way to deliver an in-person education for our students to start the year. The high volume of students, the inability to cohort, and the recent rise in the virus’ spread among teenagers has to be considered as we move forward.  

    As we continue developing the hybrid model for middle and high schools, details will be shared in a separate communication soon. 

    As mentioned before, we have tried our best to offer options that would work for our community. Our goal has been, and continues to be, to bring our students and staff safely back to our buildings. This effort is not only about a safe return, but equally about safely remaining open. Please continue to help us in our efforts for a safe reentry to school.

    Stay safe and healthy, Lion Nation.

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District


    August 4, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    I hope you and your family are enjoying the summer. In our last communication, we shared our return to school plan. We also shared that we would continue to monitor our ever-changing situation and keep you updated as we get closer to the first day of school. In addition to receiving district wide information, each school building will be sharing its specific building plan with families soon. It is still our intention to make a safe physical return to school as well as offer an online learning option.

    As most of you have heard, nearly all St. Louis County and City schools have decided to start the school year virtually. At Northwest, we have offered a choice to return in-person or select a virtual option through OnLionEdu. Thus far, nearly 25 percent of our families have selected OnLionEdu. While we are still in the early planning stages, this reduction in overall in-person enrollment should help reduce class sizes and overall building capacities. It is clear that it is making a difference in class sizes for the elementary level. However, it may not be enough at the middle and high school level, and we may have to explore additional strategies to reduce class sizes and decrease the overall capacity on a daily basis. Recognizing that the virus has spread more among teenagers and that high school and middle school schedules do not accommodate cohorting, the secondary schedules may need to be modified to start the school year.  

    We continue to be in frequent contact with the Jefferson County Health Department and are closely monitoring the community spread of the virus. While our data in Jefferson County may not be as severe as St. Louis County, we are not trending in the right direction and the Health Department continues to consider increasing restrictions and tightening its guidelines. 

    We have shared our back-to-school plans with the Health Department for review. They provided feedback, stating that we need to continue to follow its recommended mitigation strategies. When we originally published our “return to school” draft, we acknowledged that things would likely change as circumstances changed. Given that our community continues to see a growth in positive tests, we want to make sure we are following all the mitigation strategies necessary to help slow the spread and remain open. Therefore, to start the 2020 school year, all staff, students, and visitors will be required to wear a face covering when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible. We understand that there may be medical considerations or other circumstances that may exempt some from this requirement. We also recognize this could be more challenging for our elementary students (especially 9 years and under), and we will work to accommodate younger students and individuals on a case-by-case basis. I understand that not everyone agrees with the concept of face coverings, but we need to do everything we can to have our students safely return to our schools.

    Nearly everyone is eager for a safe return to school and activities, but we all need to do our part. In order to help our community, we need to continue to do our part by frequently washing hands, following social distancing protocols, avoiding large congregations, and wearing a face covering when social distancing is not possible. 

    Please continue to help us in our efforts for a safe reentry to school.

    Stay safe and healthy, Lion Nation.

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District


    June 26, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    I hope you’re all enjoying the summer. Businesses are opening up once again, travel is resuming, and things are beginning to return to a more normal schedule. While we have been fortunate that the Covid-19 virus has not hit our community as hard as it has in other areas, it is still out there and we should take precautions against it. However, we can resume our pre-Covid lives, albeit with some precautionary measures like social distancing, in place.

    A couple of weeks ago, we sent out a survey that asked about returning to school and how parents and guardians envisioned the return to school. We received the results of the survey this week, and you provided us with great feedback. Thank you for your participation. As you may have anticipated, the majority of respondents are wanting their child to return to school in person in August. Even though the survey also indicates that most parents were supportive of some symptoms checks and other precautions, the majority of comments indicated strong support for a return to school as normal as possible. For the full results of the survey, please see the link on our website at https://www.northwestschools.net/junecovidsurvey.

    With the completion and results of the survey, that leads to the question on the minds of parents and guardians everywhere: “What does this mean for the beginning of the school year?”

    Rest assured, we will try our best to come back to school as normal as possible in August, but we also have to follow the direction of the Jefferson County Health Department. Your survey feedback is essential to how we move forward, as is the guidance from the Health Department. We will continue to work on a plan throughout the summer to prepare for the reopening of school and welcoming all our students back in August. We hope to have a full plan to share with you in late July.

    Speaking of next month, it is just around the corner, and we are happy to report that our 12-month employees will be returning to our buildings on July 1. Staff will be available to assist you on the telephone or in-person with registrations and answer questions that you may have. When visiting our buildings, masks will not be required at this time, but we will follow social distancing rules as much as possible.

    July also means the return of sports and training camps. Please see the Return to Play forms at https://nwlions.com/home/inside-athletics/ for more information and guidelines for student athletes. The forms must be completed and returned before athletes will be allowed to take the field at any of the camps or training sessions.

    We are happy to be phasing in our reopening next week. We miss our students and families and look forward to a return in August. We’ve got this Lion Nation!

    Thank you for trusting us with your child,

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest School District


    June 12, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    A couple of weeks ago, I conducted an interview with Mandy Murphey from KTVI Fox 2 News. It was a good conversation, lasting about 25 minutes, and she asked some great questions about reopening schools. Some of those questions, I could only answer the best I could, simply because we do not know the answers at this time. The situation is fluid and we continue to adjust and try to plan based on the most recent information and circumstances.

    On Thursday, Governor Mike Parson announced that statewide restrictions will be lifted and Missouri will “fully reopen” on Tuesday, June 16. While Missouri will fully reopen on June 16, Governor Parson emphasized the importance of continuing social distancing and practicing proper hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “We must remember that COVID-19 is not gone,” Governor Parson said. “It is still extremely important for everyone to continue social distancing. Be proactive. Avoid large, congested crowds, and if you can’t social distance, take extra precautions to protect yourself and those around you.”

    While the reopening of Missouri is a positive sign as we prepare for the start of school, it will be up to local regions and health departments to make decisions for their communities. At this time, there have been no official decisions made regarding the start of next school year except that the first day is Wednesday, August 26, 2020. The overall goal is to have August 26 look like the start of most school years while possibly having some new modifications and safety protocols in place. Yet, it is pertinent that we be prepared if the school year must begin differently or if we have another closure. Failure to do so would be a disservice to our students and families. A year ago, if we had known that we were going to have to close school for ten weeks, we certainly would have prepared differently last summer. We have to plan for circumstances that may not be within our control.

    Soon, I will be sending an email to parents and guardians containing a link to a survey about the upcoming school year. Your thoughts and opinions are important to us, and the survey is for you to let us know how you feel. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey, as your input is crucial to making this upcoming school year a success.

    We have many items to research and consider over the summer, and we want to assure you that our decisions are always made in the best interest of our students' safety, health, and education. Lion Nation is a caring community and we need to continue to work as partners to provide the best opportunities for our students and families.

    Thank you, and we look forward to hearing your feedback.

    We've got this!

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District


    May 15, 2020

     
    Lion Nation,
     
    It’s hard to believe, but it has been nearly 60 days since students have been in our school buildings. We only have one more week to go in the most unusual school year we have ever seen. That means students still have five more days to engage with their teachers and classmates and improve their grades. Thank you again for all your efforts to continue to stay connected and engaged.
     
    I want to remind you that next week are the dates to pick up personal items left at schools, as well as dropping off items, like library books and athletic uniforms. Elementary, middle, and high schools all have staggered dates and times to allow families with multiple students to make it to each school. Information was released by each school over the past few days. If you did not receive that information, please email your child’s teacher to get the details.
     
    Next week, we will have the first of two virtual ceremonies for our seniors. On Wednesday, May 20, we will have Senior Awards Night, which will premiere on our YouTube channel at 7 p.m. One week from today, on May 22, we will have virtual graduation, which will also premiere on our YouTube channel at 7 p.m. Of course, we are still hoping to have an in-person graduation on July 31. We will keep you updated about the progress of this event as the date grows closer.
     
    Our task force dedicated to the reopening of our schools is moving along, with membership and tasks being identified. This is a fluid process, dependent on advice from health professionals, as well as the spread of the virus and its containment. Along with the task force, be on the lookout for a survey this summer regarding reopening, your feelings on reopening, and what you may envision with a reopening.
     
    We are not only preparing for a reopening, but preparing for a scenario that may involve another building closure. We obviously hope that this is not the case; we would like to begin the school year as normal with zero interruptions, but we must be prepared just in case.
     
    With our current building closure, teachers, students and families were abruptly thrown into a situation unlike any they had ever seen. There were only two days to convert a classroom-based curriculum to one delivered entirely online. While some students thrived and worked well with the change, some did not. However, everyone did the best they could under the circumstances. We know with proper preparation time, we can do better. We owe it to our students. As a result, this summer will involve looking at ways to improve our online/virtual curriculum delivery, provide as many learning instructional and learning opportunities as possible, and improve our engagement and connectedness to our students. Again, this is just in case we cannot return to a normal classroom this year or in case we have to endure another closure for a possible second wave of the virus.
     
    As we enter the final week of school, we do have some school recognitions and celebrations to announce. In the midst of our building closure, two of our schools received national honors. A big congratulations to Principal Nicole Huffman and the students and staff of Valley Middle School as they achieved the designation of Lighthouse School from the Franklin Covey Co. They are the fifth school in our school district to receive this award. Another big shout out goes to Principal Mary Smith and the students and staff of Brennan Woods Elementary, who were recognized today as a National School of Character by Character.org. We’re proud of both of these schools, as it is indicative of the hard work of our students and staff and great examples of the wonderful things happening at Northwest.
     
    One more week, Lion Nation. You’re doing great. Enjoy your weekend, re-energize, sharpen the saw, and stay connected. We’ve got this!
     
    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District

    May 8, 2020 

    Lion Nation,

    As we end the week, counting down toward the end of the school year, today marks day 32 of virtual and alternative methods of learning for our students and staff. Only 10 more school days to go! Keep up the momentum, because you are doing a tremendous job.

    While we talk about wrapping up the end of the school year, our thoughts are also with how things may operate and how things may look when we are able to safely re-enter our schools and buildings. Of course, we are hopeful that circumstances will allow us to return to school as any other year, but we have to begin planning for a variety of situations.

    As we mentioned last week, we have formed a team to research and discuss how we will continue learning while keeping our students safe when we come back to school. Issues we are looking at include curriculum and instruction, transportation, facilities, social distancing in the classroom, technology, health and wellness, special education, and much more. The district and building administrators, along with representatives from all schools, will serve on the committees addressing these issues. The groups will research items and documents that present considerations for re-entry, such as the guidance referenced in a recent Stltoday article from Missouri School Board Association.

    While we address those issues, we have to be prepared that school may look different next year. As mentioned in the previously cited article, this could mean changes in how classrooms look or are operated, transportation, lunch shifts, and other procedures in place in our schools. While we don’t know for sure if these things will be impacted by COVID-19, we have to be prepared that they may. As we have stated in the past, it remains true; our primary concern is the safety of our students, and that will always be taken into consideration as we prepare for the upcoming school year.

    Of course, the biggest goal of a student’s career is graduation, and we have some information for our Class of 2020 graduates and their families. While we have a virtual graduation planned for May 22, we have a tentative date of an in-person graduation for July 31, 2020, but only if it is safe to do so based on recommendations from local health officials. Even though we have set a tentative date, we still need our seniors information for the virtual ceremony.  If you haven’t done so, please make sure to submit your graduation information. We will keep you updated on our tentative date as it approaches.

    As I shared last week, some of our employees have begun to return to our buildings for essential tasks, picking up personal items, and other year end protocols. However, our buildings and facilities will remain closed to the public for athletic events, practices, and recreational use per Health Department guidance until at least June 30. 

    In the meantime, keep up the great work, Lion Nation. We’re almost there...10 more days!

    And of course, I couldn’t forget a special shout out to all our moms and best wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for all you do!

    Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay connected. After all, we’ve got this!

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District

    May 1, 2020

     
    Lion Nation,
     
    As we enter the month of May, we have three more weeks of school left for the 2019-20 school year. With the weather getting nicer, aside from a few rainy days, it can be difficult for students, as well as parents and staff, to maintain momentum to get through the last three weeks. Get outside, enjoy the weather, enjoy your time together as a family, while doing your best to continue our learning journey and staying connected. If your student is struggling with school work or any other issues, please reach out to your child’s teacher or administrator to ask for help. Our students, families, and staff continue to do an amazing job. Let’s finish this school year strong as we prepare to enter summer.
     
    Speaking of entering summer, we are continuing discussions about what summer school options could be. Right now, it looks as though summer school will be online, with the opportunity for high school students to gain or recover credits. We will let you know when we have more information and details have been finalized.
     
    As you have probably heard, Jefferson County businesses will begin to open again, but adhering to social distancing guidelines. Beginning May 4, our custodial staff will begin to enter buildings in order to disinfect offices and classrooms. Staff will adhere to social distancing guidelines as well as good cleaning and hand hygiene practices while working. While the buildings will remain closed, we will gradually reopen offices with essential personnel in the coming weeks, but most will work from home whenever possible. We will also be scheduling instructional staff members opportunities to visit their classrooms and prepare for summer break. Schools will be notifying families and scheduling opportunities for students to pick up personal items using physical distancing guidelines prior to the conclusion of the school year.
     
    We can expect these guidelines to remain in place until the virus has subsided substantially, or a vaccine is made available. In other words, general physical distancing precautions will probably still be the norm when we attempt to reopen schools. Our district is creating a re-entry task force made up of administrators, teachers, and classified staff from each building. The task force will be assembled very soon and meetings will be scheduled to begin as soon as possible.
     
    Please be aware that the goal is to get back to normal as quickly and as safely, as possible. I want to emphasize safely. The guidelines are put in place for a reason, and adhering to social distancing, especially in public, is essential to stopping the spread of the virus.
     
    Before I wrap up, I want to recognize and give a big “thank you!” to our food service staff, who has continued to provide food to our students through the building closure. Thanks to them, students who rely on school meals did not have to go hungry and were provided breakfasts, lunches, and a Brendan’s Backpack of food to get through the weekend. I also want to thank the bus drivers who delivered meals to students unable to make it to schools to pick up their meals. You exemplify the “love” in our “Love, Learn, Lead” motto.
     
    In the meantime, Lion Nation, we’ve got three more weeks. You continue to step up to the challenges brought on by this pandemic, and you’re doing great. Let’s keep up the momentum, Lion Nation. We’ve got this!
     
    Stay connected Lion Nation,
    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District

    April 24, 2020

     
    Lion Nation,
     
    We are entering the home stretch of the school year. One month from today, all class work will conclude and the school year will be complete. Our community continues to do a wonderful job navigating our current circumstances. I know there are many people who are struggling during this time and the support of the schools and the community is critical. While we know this has been a difficult challenge, we are also hearing inspiring and encouraging stories as many have connected in ways they never have before.
     
    As we have grown accustomed to learning and working from home over the past month, using technology has become more important than ever, whether it is for learning, for work, or for checking in on friends and family. However, we have found that we miss everyday social interactions that we took for granted. As we still adhere to social distancing guidelines as recommended by our health department, staying connected however we can remains important.
     
    We have tried to stay connected with our students and families the best we can. Emails, calls, videos, photographs, letters, and social media have played an important part in this journey that has impacted not only our community, but the world. We want to hear from you how we are doing with our communications and our online and distance learning offerings. The good, the bad, what we are doing well, and what we can improve upon. Your feedback will help us serve you, and the rest of Lion Nation, better. We have a survey that we would like you to take, and the link is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NorthwestTellUsHowWeareDoing. The survey should take less than two minutes of your time, and we appreciate your participation.
     
    As you drive through our neighborhoods and the community, you may notice yard signs recognizing our seniors and the Class of 2020. Through efforts coordinated by the senior class office, several staff volunteers delivered signs to the home of every member of the Class of 2020. The high school administration and staff continue to find creative ways to honor our students during this time.
     
    Four more weeks, Lion Nation. We’re all in this together, and you’re doing great. Stay positive, stay connected, and remember, we are here to help you however we can. After all, we’ve got this!
     
    Stay safe and stay healthy,
     
    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District

    April 9, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    As many of you may have heard, Missouri Governor Mike Parson has just announced that all Missouri public and charter schools will close for the rest of this school year due to the COVID-19 virus. 

    While this is news I was hoping to never have to deliver, we knew it might be a reality as the nation and region try to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

    Rest assured Lion Nation, we will continue to proceed as we had planned by staying connected to our students and families. Our continued relationship with our students and families is critical during this time.  Although buildings are closed, we will continue with our e-learning and alternative instruction plans. Students will continue to receive learning opportunities and support from Northwest teachers and staff. We also plan to continue meal service during the closure. As mentioned in a letter sent this morning, the school year for Northwest R-I will formally end on May 22. For more information, visit https://www.northwestschools.net/coronavirusinformation.

    I can assure you that Northwest R-I will continue to communicate and stay connected with students, families, staff, and the entire community. This is a bump in the road not only for Lion Nation, but for the entire world. We have had to adjust to our circumstances and our “new normal” for the foreseeable future, do what we can to help flatten the curve by staying home whenever possible and practicing social distancing when we cannot. We must remain resilient, and together, we will get through this. Now more than ever we need each other. We will stay connected and we will grow stronger.

    Stay safe and healthy, Lion Nation.

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District


    Student Meal Information

    We are extending our school meal service through the month of June!

    DATES: Wednesday May 27, June 3, June 10, June 17, June 24

    PICK-UP LOCATIONS:

    Maple Grove Elementary
    7887 Dittmer Ridge Road, Dittmer, MO 63023
    Time: 11-12:30

    Valley Middle School Cafeteria
    4300 Gravois Road, House Springs, MO 63051
    (use walkway alongside Comtrea building)
    Last names A-L; 11 a.m. to Noon
    Last names M-Z; Noon to 1 p.m.

    Brennan Woods Elementary
    4630 Brennan Road, High Ridge, MO 63049
    (park around back by gym)
    Last names A-L; 11 a.m. to Noon
    Last names M-Z; Noon to 1 p.m.

     

    April 9, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    This experience has certainly been a unique, but in many cases, an incredible learning and growth opportunity. Our community has been amazing and I know this common experience will strengthen us.

    As we enter our Easter break with a much-deserved three-day weekend beginning tomorrow, I want to touch base with you with some new information about our school calendar.  Since we should be safe from additional inclement weather days, the big news to share with you is that our last day of school for students will be Friday, May 22. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has said that the days schools are closed due to  COVID-19 will be forgiven so we will not have to make up these hours. This makes sense considering all the teaching and learning that continues to occur during our recent closure.

    That leads me to the next topic: when we will come back to school? To be honest, we really don’t know. Our most recent closure has us out of school until April 27. Currently, health officials expect the virus to peak during the last week of April through the first week of May. That, however, does not mean that we will be coming back immediately, as the virus will still be prevalent and present. Obviously, when it is safe to reopen our schools and welcome back our students we will do so.  

    Earlier this week, I met with area superintendents from St. Louis and Jefferson County to discuss extended closures. It is not what we want to hear, but there is a distinct possibility that we will not be able to safely reopen schools this year. Jefferson County School Districts have another meeting with the Health Department and County Officials scheduled for Tuesday, April 14 to discuss our current status and review next steps. We will let you know as soon as we know anything more about the situation. I want to continue to be transparent with communication and provide you with the most updated information possible. 

    Speaking of COVID-19, the number of positive cases has been increasing, with Jefferson County reporting 95 cases. Much of the rise in numbers is due to increased availability of testing and correctly identifying symptoms. Even though it is likely we have had additional cases in our community, we are less likely to be informed by the Health Department due to the time we have been out of school and the risk of exposure.

    As we reported last week, a staff member from Maple Grove Elementary tested positive for the virus. I am happy to report the staff member is doing very well and fully recovered. The outpouring of support from Lion Nation for the staff member has been nothing short of amazing. It’s just one more reason our community is such a special place.

    I cannot thank you enough for your continued efforts to keep learning and staying connected. I want to wish you all a very happy Easter, Lion Nation. Although your traditions or plans may have changed this year, we are adaptable, we are resilient, and we are in this together. After all, we’ve got this.

    Stay healthy, stay safe and stay connected,
    Desi Kirchhofer


    All Northwest R-I School District Playgrounds and Facilities Closed Effective Immediately

    March 31, 2020
    6:10 p.m.

    Lion Nation, we know that many of you use the playgrounds, tracks, fields, and other outdoor spaces for exercise and enjoyment. While we normally welcome each and every one of you to use our facilities, which we have because of the tremendous community support for our district, we are currently under a “stay at home” order from the Jefferson County Health Department due to the COVID-19 virus. 

    Since we have no way of limiting the number of people gathering at our facilities, in the interest of public health, we are requesting your cooperation as we close all Northwest playgrounds, fields, and tracks until the “stay at home” order is lifted. These closures are effective immediately.

    We want to remind you that the purpose of the closing of our schools and facilities is to aid in keeping our community healthy. As tempting as it is to get out of the house, especially as temperatures warm, please limit your trips away from home to necessities.

    Our community is one that takes care of each other, especially in times like these. We thank you, Lion Nation, for your patience, understanding, and cooperation.


    March 31, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    I realize that it sometimes seems there is an information overload from either the district or your children’s teachers. We never want to overwhelm you with information, but we feel this is pertinent and wanted to inform you immediately. That is why I write today, to let you know of a COVID-19 issue that impacts our community while also respecting privacy laws. 

    Today, the Jefferson County Health Department confirmed that a Northwest staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member works at Maple Grove Elementary. The staff member did not exhibit any symptoms while school was in session and students were present. However, the staff member did make a brief visit to the building on Friday, March 20 and has not been on campus since.

    The Jefferson County Health Department will be in contact with anyone at risk of exposure from the staff member. Northwest is cooperating fully while assisting the health department, and we ask for your understanding as the district cannot release any personally identifiable information due to privacy laws.

    Please know that our primary concern is for the health and safety of our students and community. If you or a family member develop a cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, you should call your primary care provider before any visit or contact the Missouri State Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline at 877-435-8411, or the Jefferson County Health Department at 636-797-3737 extension 210. You can also visit the CDC website or Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) website, for more information. 

    As we send this communication, Jefferson County has 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and anticipates more positive cases as the testing increases. We are in frequent contact with the Jefferson County Health Department as we monitor the COVID-19 situation and its impact on our community. We will continue to be transparent in our communications, and will let you know of any further developments. In the meantime, it is important that as a community we abide by the current “stay at home” order.

    Stay safe and healthy,

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District 


    March 29, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    It’s a day early, but I want to say “Welcome back!” During these extremely unusual times, I hope that you still were able to have a relaxing and enjoyable spring break. Tomorrow marks our first day back in our electronic and home classrooms. While the situation is not ideal, we will continue to do our best to provide learning opportunities and support for Northwest students. If you were like me, there were moments of the break that seemed strange because we couldn’t do some things we are accustomed to, but in other cases, it was energizing trying to find new things to do. 

    During times like these, when there are many uncertainties, it is important to try to maintain some sort of routine. Things like having a regularly scheduled bedtime and wake-up time go a long way toward making each day feel like a regular day, including time for creating, exercising, and playing. Our goal is to make each day as normal as possible, with regular learning opportunities, ongoing communication with students, and maintaining that connection with them as well as families in our communityHere is more information from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with tips about how to support learning at home.

    As a community, we want to thank New Hope Fellowship Church for donating meals to students during spring break, and on that note, remind you that food service has resumed at Maple Grove Elementary, Valley Middle, and Brennan Woods Elementary schools. More information about food service and other questions can be found at https://www.northwestschools.net/covid19faq.

    As I have mentioned before, I always try to find the positive even when faced with adversity. While this situation is very challenging, the silver lining is that we are constantly improving upon our alternative methods of instruction. This could possibly serve as a model for future opportunities, including those for snow days. Can you imagine eight inches of snow on the ground with school canceled for three days, yet not having to make up those hours thanks to an alternative instruction plan? We have a long way to go and will eventually have to submit a plan to be approved by the State Department, but this serves as a good test run.

    Once again, I want to thank everyone for their tremendous flexibility and understanding during this closure. While we count down toward the day we can physically open schools, we want to be sure to remain engaged and connected with one another. 

    Over the next couple of days, teachers will be contacting families once again to reconnect and discuss learning expectations and future communications. We understand that everyone’s circumstances will be different and we want to work with you to provide the support and resources as best we can. We will be flexible and understanding with assignments and school work during this closure. We will also do our best to stay in contact with students and families to provide learning opportunities without negative consequences.

    One particular group of students that many have expressed concern for is our seniors - the Class of 2020. The concerns are not only about academics, credits, and course requirements, but also about activities such as graduation and prom. Looking ahead to the future weeks and months, there remain many uncertainties. That stated, as far as graduation and possibly other traditional 12th grade experiences, we will work with the high school administration to try to address events and do all we can to make these special events possible. The high school administrators have already started discussing possible solutions if the situation doesn't improve by the graduation date. They are committed to making this work for students. It may look different and occur at a different time and place depending on how things evolve, but we will do our best to honor our seniors and have some memorable moments. 

    If you have any questions, you can reach out to your child’s teacher or any administrator. We are here for you in this crisis, as well as any other time. Lion Nation, we’ve got this.

    Stay safe, stay healthy, and continue practicing physical distancing.

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District


    March 23, 2020
     
    Lion Nation,
     
    First of all, I want to thank our students, parents, and staff for how everyone has responded during the first portion of our closure. You are doing an amazing job. We appreciate all that you are doing to be prepared at home and encourage you to reach out to your building if you are in need of support or information. We do understand the challenge this situation presents.
     
    Even though we are officially on spring break, I need to provide you an update on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and how it impacts the Northwest R-I School District.
     
    This afternoon, Jefferson County Executive Offices have declared a “stay at home” policy beginning at 12:01 a.m. on March 24 until 11:59 p.m. April 23. What does this mean for our community? We have a copy of the executive order and frequently asked questions about how the order impacts our community. 
     
    Based upon the spread of the virus and how quickly and easily it is transmitted, we believe it is in the best interest of the entire community to extend the closure of the Northwest R-I School District through April 24, with a hopeful return date for students of April 27. Until then, we will continue operating as we are now; students working with teachers online or with packets and encouraging learning opportunities at home. We will also extend “grab and go” lunch services during our closure. If you wish to receive lunch, please fill out the online form.
     
    While we are hopeful for the return date of April 27, but because of the ever-changing circumstances, we honestly don’t know. However, we will do everything in our power to salvage the rest of this school year. This includes graduation and other important events.
     
    In the meantime, we urge you to comply with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and practice social distancing and staying home as much as possible. This is an unprecedented case in which it truly takes everyone to help end this crisis.
     
    COVID-19 is a bump in the road for this school year and in our lives, but we know our community can overcome anything - we are Lion Nation. Parents and guardians, you’re doing a great job. Teachers and staff, you’re rising to the challenges you’ve been given and exceeding. Students, you are the heart and soul of Lion Nation, and it is you who is impacted the most. You are amazing in every sense of the word, and you have adjusted to this “new normal” better than we could have imagined. All around, the resilience of Lion Nation is to be commended.
     
    Just know, Lion Nation, that we love you, we miss you, and we can’t wait to see you in person once this crisis ends.
     
    We’ve got this!
     
    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Superintendent, Northwest R-I School District

     

    March 20, 2020

    Lion Nation,
    I always try to be optimistic and find the best out of difficult situations. Our silver lining in this cloud has been you, Lion Nation. From the students and families to the teachers and staff, I want to thank you for your resilience and ability to exhibit grace under pressure. This has not, and will not, be easy, but we are making the best of it and will always make decisions based on what is best for our students. The COVID-19 situation is serious. This video explains how easily and quickly the virus can spread, and it takes the cooperation of everyone to help stop it.

    We have learned quite a few things in the past two days. Our technology department has really come through, even implementing a new tech support system online. These are uncharted waters for us all, but we will continue to learn and improve the learning experience for our students.

    Last night, we were able to still hold our March Board of Education meeting and adhere to social distancing recommendations from the Jefferson County Health Department by streaming our meeting on Facebook Live. It was the best we could do on such short notice, but the comments made were indicative of the way Lion Nation supports each other in good times and bad. Our Board Secretary, Chris Shelton, was complimentary to not only our teachers, but our families as well, and the entire Board shared his sentiments. I want to share the video of his comments with you.

    I want to let you know that on March 30, the superintendents of schools in Jefferson County, along with public officials, will have a meeting to discuss the circumstances and next steps regarding closures. As of now, the targeted return date is April 6, but as I have mentioned before, the situation is fluid and the date is subject to change. We will let you know about further developments as soon as possible.

    We have received several questions over the past few days, and we have a “Frequently Asked Questions” document available for you on our website at northwestschools.net/covid19faq. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to your child’s building principal. 

    We want you to remember that we are here for you and your children, and we want to stay connected. If you have photos of your students you wish to share, please send them to socialmedia@northwestschools.net, and we may feature them on our social media channels. We will stay active online, even during spring break.

    Speaking of spring break, I hope you and your families have the opportunity to enjoy the time off. Take time to practice self-care. Whether it is a walk, a good book, exercise, or some other form of enjoyment, take time to recharge your batteries, sharpen the saw, and have a great week. 

    Remember, we’re in this together, and we’ve got this!

    Thank you for your on-going support and resilience,

    Desi Kirchhofer, Ed. D
    Superintendent, Northwest School District
    Twitter @SuptNorthwest

     


    March 20, 2020

    We have created a Frequently Asked Questions document for families.


    March 18, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    All of us at the Northwest R-I School District want to thank you as we begin a new adventure in the education of our students today, as we heed the call of health experts and avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Even though we are practicing social distancing, we do not want social isolation. We want to stay as connected as possible with our families. 

    Although the virus has changed the way we do things for a while, life goes on. We know that this situation is not the same as your child being at school, or for our staff to be working from home. However, we are all working hard to navigate these waters in the best interest of our students and community. 

    If you have not received a call from one of our teachers, you will soon. The purpose of the call is to let you know what will be expected of your child and to answer any questions you may have specific to your child’s situation or class work. Since this is a fluid situation, so are the expectations. While we want students to continue to learn, we will be flexible with students, as every situation is different, and this is a challenging time for all of us. We will work with you.

    We are compiling a list of answers to the most “Frequently Asked Questions,” which will be released very soon. We also want you to know that you can reach out via email to staff with any additional questions. While we may not be in classrooms now, we are still here for our students and families. 

    This situation reminds us to continue to live part of our mission; to be resilient during a challenge, and ready to face it head-on. Regardless of this challenge that we face together, as the saying goes, “You’ve got this!” And, I want to reassure you that as a district, “We’ve got this!” too.

    Next week is spring break. Take the time to walk your dog, sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, read a book, check in with friends with a phone call, video message, or social media, check on your family, or anything else that brings you joy. Whatever you do, I hope you and your children enjoy your break. You have certainly earned it. 

    Stay safe and stay healthy, Lion Nation!

    Desi Kirchhofer, Ed. D
    Superintendent, Northwest School District
    Twiitter @SuptNorthwest 


    March 15, 2020

    Lion Nation,

    On Friday, March 13, 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed an executive order declaring a State of Emergency in Missouri in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

    On Sunday afternoon, March 15, 2020 representatives from the Jefferson County Health Department, Jefferson County Administration Office, Mercy Hospitals, and Jefferson County schools met and determined that out of an abundance of caution, all Jefferson County public schools, including Northwest R-I, will close beginning at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17. Classes will be in session as planned on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17, 2020. We will re-evaluate the situation after two weeks. The anticipated reopening date is April 6, 2020; however, the reopening date is subject to change pending further information.  

    There will be no practices or games for any of the teams involved in MSHSAA athletics and/or all other activities thru April 3, 2020. This will include the use of facilities by outside groups or teams.  

    We are letting you know ahead of time in order to give the district and its families ample time to make plans for this extended absence.

    Keeping our students, educators, families, and communities safe is our top priority. We are using every tool we have to protect our community and will continue to do so in the coming days and weeks. We did not make the decision to close schools lightly. The determination to close schools was made with the health and well being of everyone in mind. We understand everyone will be impacted and lives will be disrupted by this decision, but we believe we need to take such actions to protect our families and communities from this outbreak. Measures like closing schools and restricting mass gatherings are intended to slow the spread of the virus and assist our healthcare system, so those affected can receive the care needed. Early signs are beginning to occur with five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the State of Missouri as of this morning. Based on trends from around the world over the past few months, spreading to more communities in our country over the next few weeks is likely.

    During the closure, we are going to continue doing all we can to support the students and families of our district with resources they may need while schools are closed.    

    We will be in contact through our designated communication channels, providing additional information regarding ongoing learning plans, as well as social services for those in need. Please ensure your contact information is up-to-date with your student’s school office and you are connected to one or more of the following: 

    Thank you for your resilience during this time. We are here to help.

    Dr. Desi Kirchhofer
    Northwest R-I Superintendent


    Hello Lion Nation:

    It goes without saying that the safety of our students, staff, and community is our top priority. With all the media attention, travel restrictions, and potential closings, many of our families have questions regarding the Coronavirus and the impact on our school community. I want to assure you that we are in close communication with local and state officials, as well as continuing to monitor the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other resources in order to stay on top of this evolving situation. As we receive information, we will adjust our practices as necessary and continue to prioritize the safety and learning of our students.

    Below is an FAQ to provide you with the most updated information.

    • Will the Northwest R-I School District close?
      • As of this writing, the Jefferson County Health Department and the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) officials do not recommend closing schools.
    • If schools are closed, how will students continue to access their education?
      • Northwest Executive Director of Secondary Education Dr. Tammy Ridgeway is leading a team of administrators to develop learning plans for students to use at home in the event a closure is necessary. In an effort to be proactive, we will be asking students and families about their availability of internet access and other resources at home. We will use this data to decide what path to take for these plans if necessary.
    • Are health-related absences due to Coronavirus concerns considered documented absences from school? 
      • We understand that family circumstances and risk factors can be different for everyone, and we will honor your decision to keep your child home from school. Students will not be penalized but please notify your child’s school if you will be keeping him or her home so we can document your child’s absence. 
    • How will Northwest R-I communicate with families with updates?
      • We will notify families when necessary through our regular communication channels, including email, social media, our website, and voice/text messaging.
    • What is the protocol for cleaning and disinfecting schools?
      • Our custodial staff, as well as our teachers, are aware of the current situation with Coronavirus. Our custodians have been working overtime hours in an effort to stay on top of the task. They have been cleaning, disinfecting, and wiping down frequently touched surfaces in common areas as well as classrooms. After public events in district locations, such as the recent election, extra care and attention was given to the areas in an effort to make sure the area was clean. 
    • When should a student or staff member stay home?
      • If students or staff experience fever of 100 degrees or higher, cough and/or difficulty breathing, the CDC recommends they should stay home from school and contact their health care provider immediately.
    • Will school events be canceled?
      • As of this writing, all events are being held as planned. However, as this is a fluid situation, these plans can change at a moment’s notice.
    • What guidelines should families follow regarding travel?
      • With spring break just around the corner, we know families have trips planned. Please consult https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ before you travel for any travel advisories.
    • Where can I turn for more information?

    Please understand we will continue to monitor this developing situation closely. We will stay in regular contact with the Jefferson County Health Department and other professional health organizations. We will continue to adjust our operations according to the recommendations of health authorities as the situation develops. 

    At Northwest, we are fortunate to live in such a kind and caring community. It is times like these that we need to continue to show the support and kindness that makes Northwest a special place.

    Thanks for trusting us with your student,

    Desi Kirchhofer, Ed. D
    Superintendent, Northwest School District


    March 10, 2020

    Lion Nation,
    You have most likely been hearing about Coronavirus and the impact that has been felt across the country, and recently, in the St. Louis area. This letter is not to cause panic, but to assure you that the Northwest R-I School District is staying informed and monitoring the situation.

    We have been in frequent contact with the Jefferson County Health Department. As of this writing, there have been no reported cases in our county or our school district. We hope to keep it that way.

    Risk is based on exposure to the virus. Here are some guidelines to follow to minimize the risk of catching Coronavirus, or any other virus.

    If you or your child are sick, stay home.

    Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, or cough and sneeze into your inner elbow.

    Practice good hand washing with soap and water. If those are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

    If you have not already done so, get a flu vaccine.

    Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

    In the meantime, we have many events scheduled for the spring, from award ceremonies to athletic events to graduation. Currently, we intend to hold these events as planned. With spring break coming up soon, we know that families sometimes have trips scheduled. Please check travel.state.gov for any travel restrictions or advisories.

    Please visit www.health.mo.gov/coronavirus for additional information on the virus.

    We know that with issues like this, information is constantly changing. As mentioned before, we are in frequent contact with the Jefferson County Health Department and will follow its guidance as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations moving forward. If we receive any major updates or more information, we will let you know.

    We want our students and community to stay healthy and safe.

    Take care,
    Desi Kirchhofer