HHS plunges into NTI again, Prin. Bertasso announces expectations and procedures

     On Wednesday, November 18, Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order that, among other mandates, required all public and private high schools in the state of Kentucky to cease in-person learning from November 23 to January 4, 2021. 

     Though Highlands High School (HHS) experienced COVID-19 related disruptions previously and has a set plan for non-traditional instruction (NTI), some things have changed since the beginning of the school year. 

     On Thursday, November 19, HHS Principal Matthew Bertasso appeared on the daily announcements (LINK: Prin. Bertasso’s announcement begins at 6:12) to share some of the changes to NTI and what it will look like this go around. 

     During NTI in the beginning of the year, there was a convening time, during which students would meet with their Advisory classes and have additional time to work on assignments. This NTI will do away with Convening. Instead, the lunch time has been extended and will include Advisory time and Focus period. During Advisory time, targeted activities will take place, so students are advised to look forward to that. Focus will be brought back to provide students with additional time to work on assignments. 

Taken from Prin. Bertasso’s announcement, this visual discusses some of the changes seen in this go around’s NTI. Photo courtesy of Principal Matthew Bertasso.

     This NTI’s schedule is similar to that at the beginning of the year, but does feature a couple of differences. Like NTI at the beginning of the year, even number classes (2nd, 4th, 6th, Early Bird (EB)) will meet on even number calendar days and odd number classes (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th) will meet on odd number calendar days. However, compared to the previous 70-minute classes, each class this NTI will be 80 minutes long. During this time, classes will host Microsoft Teams meetings, host virtual and in-person small group meetings, and give time to work on assignments. After the first two classes (1st/2nd and 3rd/4th) of the day, there will be an 80-minute break for lunch, Advisory, and Focus, which will be called LAF. The third and fourth classes (5th/6th and 7th/EB) of the day will be held after LAF. 

This visual displays the NTI schedule that will begin November 23. Photo courtesy of Principal Matthew Bertasso.

     Though classes can only hold time bound events on their particular days, there may be other assignments for those classes on the days they’re not meeting. Students are advised to check Schoology everyday for those assignments and ensure they know where those assignments will be. Those assignments need to be completed, as they will roll over to the next class period. 

     Prin. Bertasso emphasized the importance of participation, as this will need to be reported to the state, same as attendance is when students are in-person. The HHS staff also wants to ensure students don’t get lost along the way. This participation will be tracked in three ways. The first is a report pulled from Schoology, showing who has been in Schoology, what activities they’ve done, and more. The second is through Microsoft Teams, as teachers can pull a report showing who was in meetings and how long they were there. The third is teachers themselves will be able to report participation in class. Prin. Bertasso urged students to connect with their teachers on a regular basis. 

     “All of these things will help us continue our learning as we move into the next phase of [COVID-19],” Bertasso said. 

     In addition to NTI, the protocols HHS has in place will allow them to utilize small group meetings. Small group guidelines include no more than 15 people (1 teacher + 14 students), meeting for less than two hours, and following the masking, distancing, sanitizing, and temperature check requirements. 

     On top of Prin. Bertasso’s video announcements, HHS shared how their response plan will affect other topics, such as sports, extracurriculars, and more. 

Highlands High School’s plan for Executive Order NTI, which will last from November 23 to January 4. Photo courtesy of Principal Matthew Bertasso.

     For HHS athletics, football will continue but all winter sports are suspended until December 14, as per the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s decision. Winter sports are to conclude in late March 2021 to avoid too much overlap with spring sports. 

     If extracurriculars at HHS can meet small group guidelines, they are to contact Prin. Bertasso for instructions on continuing practice. If extracurriculars can not meet those guidelines, practices and competitions are suspended until December 14. 

     “The last seven months have really kept us on our toes,” Prin. Bertasso expressed. “We’ve moved from different types of instruction with new guidelines and new restrictions. [Now] is no different.”

     Though the next several weeks may pose a struggle, HHS plans to return to in-person education beginning January 4, 2021, as long as the county is no longer a red zone and the school follows Healthy at School guidelines.