School board members and administrators in the Maple and Superior school districts spent hours detailing school reopening plans and addressing public comment Monday, July 20.
The Maple board aired their meeting from Northwestern High School’s Patricia Luostari Theatre for the Performing Arts, while Superior held theirs at the School Board Office via livestream.
The Superior School Board approved three learning scenarios for the 2020-21 school year: virtual learning, on-site learning and a hybrid model that combines the two. What model the district will roll out Sept. 1 will depend on the rate of COVID-19 transmission rates in the community at the time, officials said.
“Tonight is not to make a decision on which model we will use, it’s to have all three models approved and available so when it comes time to start school and a decision has to be made based on science — based on what the CDC is saying and the public health is saying — we have a model that can be used based on that information at the time,” said Christina Kintop, school board vice president.
Having all three options approved also provides flexibility if the district has to switch from one model to another during the course of the school year, said District Administrator Amy Starzecki.
“It is highly likely we may have to close school and go to a virtual model not because of our (county) numbers but because of staff or student absences,” she said. “That’s a fairly high possibility.”
The majority of the meeting was spent fine-tuning the hybrid model, which is brand new to the district. It was developed based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Douglas County Public Health.
Under the hybrid model, elementary students would attend four full days of school per week and engage in at-home learning on Wednesdays.
Superior high school and middle school students would attend two full days of school per week — either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday — and engage in virtual at-home learning the other three days.
Students in 4K would attend two full days of school per week — Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday — and 3K would run as a morning program Monday through Friday.
Virtual learning at home will not look the same as it did this spring, Starzecki said. It will utilize Google classrooms and sites. Parents have the option to enroll their children in the at-home program if they choose. Families planning to use that option must enroll by Aug. 5.
The plan the board approved requires students and staff to wear facial coverings when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained, although exceptions can be sought for medical considerations such as disabilities, respiratory conditions and traumatic personal experience. Students riding buses will be required to wear masks and sit with family members.
A full copy of the district’s COVID-19 response plan is available online.
Maple District Administrator Sara Croney told the audience that the plan lofted Monday was a starting point.
“This is a fluid document and things will change,” she said. “We’re looking at one month at a time.”
The district’s current hybrid plan calls for elementary school students to attend all five days of the week. Northwestern High and Middle school classes will be split in half, as there is not enough room at the schools to social distance all students. Each half will attend classes on site two days a week with virtual learning the other three days. The 4K students will attend two contiguous days a week to keep cohorts together.
Music and art will be offered, but teachers will take lessons to students in their classrooms.
“That’s how at NES we were able to come up with two more spaces,” Croney said. “The current art room will be able to be used for the fourth section of fifth grade; the music room will be able to be used for the fifth classroom of third grade.”
Every student and every employee will have their temperature taken each day at the school, the district administrator said. Staggered cafeteria times, frequent hand washing, upgraded disinfection techniques, face shields, masks and sanitation stations will be implemented to prevent possible transmission.
"Safety is top in our mind while our biggest efforts are to get all our students back as soon as possible," Croney said.
Mask wearing will be strongly encouraged for students in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained. Bus drivers will be required to wear masks; so will teachers when they’re in the hallways, restrooms or moving down rows of students.
As of now, all fall sports and activities will occur, Croney said, with increased cleaning and disinfecting in place. Parents of students participating in high-risk sports like football will need to sign a waiver. More direction may be coming from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Croney said the WIAA and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators sent out a survey asking districts to choose one of four options for fall sports, from starting as usual in August to not holding fall sports at all this school year. She said those results will be discussed at a July 29 WIAA meeting.
The district is taking its guidance from Douglas County Public Health Officer Kathy Ronchi and, for Iron River Elementary School, Bayfield County Public Health Officer Sara Wartman.
“We are not calling the shots,” Croney said. “The county health department is letting us know as soon as they know what changes they’re learning about.”
Ronchi attended the Maple board meeting to answer questions. She said the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is working on an outbreak plan that should be released this week and will offer additional guidance.
More information on the School District of Maple’s reopening plan will be posted on the district website’s Fall 2020 Information page as it becomes available. The July 20 meeting can be viewed on the district's Facebook page. Those with specific questions can email firstname.lastname@example.org.