Exterior building of Nome Beltz Highschool

As children in the Nome school district head back to classes this week, Nome Superintendent of Schools Jamie Burgess explained what the biggest changes are going to be for this coming school year.

One big difference between this year and last is the school calendar.

“We just started about a week earlier, and we’re going to get out a week earlier…. And then other than that, we do have a much longer break coming up over the Labor Day weekend which we hope will give some of our families opportunities to participate in subsistence and moose hunting. And then we will kinda see how it works in the spring, we don’t know yet how it’s going to look getting out so much earlier,” Burgess said.

This year’s schedule is effective for this school year only, but the calendar committee is working to formulate a calendar the district can adopt for the next three school years starting in fall of 2023, according to Burgess.

Another change took place at Nome-Beltz Middle High School: the school welcomed its new principal, Teriscovkya-Smith.

“She’s been a teacher here for many years, very passionate about student success, very passionate about having a positive culture for both staff and for students as well. She’s enthusiastic she absolutely loves kids. She connects and makes great relationships with students,” Burgess said.

Besides Smith, the district hired a news special education director, working at the district office and a new assistant principal at Nome Elementary School.

In regards to other staffing, Burgess stated that filling all the positions in the district has been a challenge due to some last minute staff withdrawals.

“So we are working hard to fill those positions. We did just hire one position. The individual should be here this weekend, and then we have two other positions we are looking to hire,” Burgess said.

The district is still trying to fill up some classified positions, such as a behavioral specialist for the elementary school, as well as positions for custodial and food service jobs, Burgess said.

In regards to COVID-19 mitigation measures, this year is going to look a lot more normal than the previous years, but the schools still will be equipped to keep COVID-19 at bay, Burgess said.

“We will be mask optional unless Nome proper goes into a high-risk community category. We are using our test to stay protocol for individuals that may be determined as a close contact so that they may continue to attend school. We have plenty of home tests available for families if they would like to stop by school and pick up a couple,” Burgess said.

Burgess added that the district will no longer immediately send home a student displaying COVID-19 symptoms, but rather will take other measures to ensure public health. Burgess said the district encourages students to get vaccinated and is setting up on-site vaccination clinics.

Burgess mentioned that attendance has been an issue for the district since the pandemic and implored students and parents to take attendance as seriously as possible.

“We’re really encouraging our families to remember that attendance for their children is really, really important. We did see a huge downshift in attendance over the pandemic and a lot of that was just kind of the way we had to shift and adjust to absences. But we know that hopefully we should see fewer absences due to COVID for this coming year, that’s our hope. And we really want to encourage our families to schedule trips around the school year instead in the middle of the school year whenever possible,” Burgess said.

Burgess is looking forward to a “rebuilding and a healing year” after the ravages of the pandemic.
The Nome School district will hold an orientation for 6th and 9th graders on Sept. 16.  All other grades start school Sept. 17.

Image at top: Nome-Beltz High School. Photo by Brisa Alarcon, KNOM.