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Abby H.S. switches to all-virtual

82 quarantined after nine test positive for COVID-19

By Ross Pattermann

The Abbotsford Board of Education voted Monday to suspend in-person instruction for grades 9-12 and move to a virtual-only platform beginning Sept. 21 and extending through Oct. 2, with high schoolers returning to in-person instruction on Oct. 5.

This decision comes on the heels of a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the district, with nine positive cases thus far, which has resulted in over 80 students being placed in quarantine. The decision was made with the hope that by canceling face-to-face classes over the next 14 days the district can stop the spread of the virus.

“We want to get a hold of this before it starts spreading,” high school principal Ryan Bartender said. “Based on where we are at right now, before we get further behind the eight ball and see even more cases, I recommend we do virtual-only learning right now.”

The quarantine also means a cessation of all sporting activities including practices and matches and games. Students learning virtually at home are still eligible to receive meals. To receive meals, students must contact Frankie Soto by email or phone at fsoto@abbostford.kl2. or 715-223-8521.

Superintendent Sherry Baker admitted that there were some concerns regarding the temporary move to a virtual only learning platform, particularly when it comes to monitoring a student’s movements. See VIRTUAL/ Page 14 “Do we bring them to school and try to protect them knowing we’re at least watching them eight hours a day?” Baker asked. “Or do we put them in a virtual environment where we don’t have any control? It’s a Catch-22, but the reality is over 80 kids are quarantined right now.”

The recommendation for virtual learning came from the Clark County Health Services, and excludes the Abbotsford elementary and middle schools as contact tracing revealed few potential COVID-19 cases at those schools.

The board also made exemptions for students with special needs, those in the alternative high school or who speak English as a second language — though these students will not necessarily be on campus for a full day.

The decision was not without debate, with arguments in favor of both continuing in-person and online instruction.

“We already have that many out, so you’re going to have minimal students here. We might as well just have all of them out and hopefully start over with a clean slate,” board member Shanna Hackel said. “I hate to be the person that says ‘Come on in’ and then have someone die. If this is the recommendation and our insurance says we go a different route and we’re not going to be covered, I think it’s a no-brainer at this point.”

Board member Eric Brodhagen, however, wondered if the recommendation was taking into account all the facets of moving to online instruction, and he noted that some experts have different opinions.

“One of the things I keep hearing is ‘Leave it to the experts.’ OK, so the health experts are obviously going to side with caution. But there’s also mental health experts, there’s education experts, there’s financial experts and they probably all have a different opinion. It annoys me when all I hear is just listen to the experts — but we’re just listening to the health experts, and even the experts can be wrong.”

Brodhagen wondered if such a move jeopardizes the possibility that students will be able to enjoy a full year of inperson instruction if this is the route the district takes after each positive COVID- 19 case.

Baker said she understands the hesitancy, but reiterated the need to stop the spread of the virus and attempt to preserve in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year.

“I understand everything you’re saying, I get it 100 percent. . . If they don’t quarantine, and they develop symptoms, it’s already too late,” Baker said. “They expose everyone around them. It’s all about having an abundance of caution.”

Other business

n The board accepted the resignation of Julie Weideman as the K-12 library media specialist.

n The board approved Adam Seefluth as assistant football coach, Mike Jakel as middle school football coach, Joseph Aguilera as a volunteer football coach, Austin Depner as JV2 volleyball coach and Codee Peterson as a volleyball volunteer.

n The board chose not to pass a motion to allow non-school sponsored clubs to access to the district’s facilities.