Summer vacation is winding down in the Northland, and Douglas County schools are preparing to reopen.
Superior and Maple school districts are implementing hybrid plans that combine virtual and in-class learning; Northwood and Solon Springs plan to provide in-class instruction to K-12 students five days a week with modifications.
Every district has built flexibility into their reopening plans to adapt to changing COVID-19 conditions in the area, and parents can opt for virtual learning if they choose.
Northwood School welcomed back roughly 330 students Thursday, Aug. 20. In addition to reduced class sizes to accommodate physical distancing and modified class scheduling for students in grades six through 12, educators are maximizing outdoor learning spaces at the school.
“We have a beautiful facility for outdoor learning,” said Northwood Superintendent Scot Kelly, including walking paths and an outdoor classroom area.
A second pavilion was under construction this month to expand opportunities for outside classes on the property, and district officials are considering building a third.
"We're really hoping to get our kids outside," Kelly said to take advantage of the fall weather.
Students in Solon Springs will attend school in person five days per week, as well. Hybrid and virtual learning options are available, but the deadline to sign up for them is 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24. Solon Springs has an estimated enrollment of 302, according to District Administrator Frank Helquist.
Both Solon Springs and Northwood have seen an increase in the number of students opting for virtual charter school. Solon Springs numbers have more than doubled, from nine at the end of the 2019-20 school year to 22 as of Monday, Aug. 17.
Kelly said the Northwood School Board approved hiring an in-house virtual teacher in response to the growing interest in the charter school. Officials have been fielding more calls about virtual learning since Gov. Tony Evers’ issued a statewide face mask mandate, he said.
The Maple School District will provide face-to-face learning five days a week for students in elementary school, and a hybrid plan involving two days of in-class instruction and three days of virtual learning for Northwestern middle and high school students.
District Administrator Sara Croney told Maple School Board members Monday, Aug. 17 that the plan approved in July remains essentially unchanged. The only difference is that face coverings will be mandatory instead of encouraged, per Evers’ emergency order, which runs through Sept. 28.
Elementary school students in Superior will be in the classroom four days a week, and learn virtually on Wednesdays. Superior middle and high school students will attend in-person classes two days a week and virtually the other three.
Visitors will be discouraged at Douglas County schools, and educators are trimming down or eliminating field trips. Croney encouraged parents to take advantage of options like open houses or appointment times to meet teachers and find classrooms prior to the start of school.
"After that public school open house, parents can't be walking their kids down to the classroom anymore," Croney said.