The Superior School Board at it's Monday, Dec. 14, meeting approved transitioning students back to hybrid instruction Jan. 11.

Sports and extracurricular activities for students would resume Monday, Dec. 21 under the motion, which was approved unanimously. Future decisions on whether to transition to online-only instruction would be based on staff absenteeism rates. The board also approved updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Department of Health Services quarantine guidelines.

Making the move to hybrid instruction Jan. 11 provides a buffer between the holidays and resuming in-person classes, board members said. Parents concerned about in-person classes could request to stay with online-only learning, but not all students are guaranteed a spot.

District Administrator Amy Starzecki said the district has more flexibility to keep students in virtual learning at the high school and middle school. Because there are no extra elementary teachers available to take on virtual learning duties, she said, elementary requests may have to be prioritized and a waiting list formed.

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The district has fewer substitute teachers available than in past years, according to Starzecki, but the district doesn’t struggle unless staff absenteeism reaches 15-20%.

Teachers on quarantine have been flexible, board member Mike Meyer said, with some continuing to teach classes virtually from home while a staff member watches students in the classroom.

Board members discussed the district’s COVID-19 plan revisions and the recommendations behind the changes for an hour.

Brynn Larrabee, the district's coordinator of health services, said there was almost no virus transmission between students and staff in schools before classes moved online. Studies show there is no relation between in-person classes and higher rates, she said. The district’s move to the virtual learning model has had no impact on community transmission rates, Starzecki said.

Recent advice from infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and local health department recommendations were also addressed. A number of emails from teachers and parents were read, often expressing opposing opinions.

"I think the array of letters you just read are what we have been receiving: Let them play, don't let them play; send them back to school, don't send them back to school. There is absolutely no perfect solution to the situation, the unprecedented situation we're in," said Christina Kintop, board vice president.

Board president Len Albrecht started the meeting by thanking everyone for voicing their concerns. It was, he said, a needed reminder about how passionate Superior parents and staff are about the education and well being of students and staff.

"Our board and administration wants to do what's best for our students and our staff," Albrecht said. "We'll never be able to make everyone happy with our decisions, but we do our best to make the best decisions we can with the information we have."

Those are based on what is best for children and best for the health and safety of staff, Kintop said.

In a split vote four yes, three no the school board approved the academic calendar for the 2021-2022 school year as presented. The first day of school for students would be Sept. 1, and the last day would be June 7.

The board also approved a number of new collaborative courses with the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Superior High School students taking the classes would earn credit at both the high school and university level.

Links to recorded sessions of the Superior School Board can be accessed through the district's board of education page.