Education not shutting down at Lake Holcombe School
The nearby future of education has been the focus of area schools over the last week, and Lake Holcombe is no different. What is happening and will happen, was discussed via a live Facebook feed March 23, as the Board of Education met in an unconventional manner.
During the online meeting, members approved the closure plan of the school building, as well as the employee plan of work during that time. In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the governor closed all private and public schools March 18, and issued a mass ban order, prohibiting the gathering of more than 10 people in one space.
For the foreseeable future, no students are allowed in the building for instructional purposes and the outdoors playground is closed, as well.
“We have a skeleton staff that is working at school,” said superintendent Kurt Lindau. “Custodial and maintenance are at this point, continuing to proceed with cleaning of the building.”
The school is also seeing a skeleton office and technology staff to keep business operations going, with administration monitoring who comes and goes, to ensure less than 10 people are in the building and practicing social distancing.
“I can tell you, there’s a great deal of collaboration and work happening remotely,” said Lindau.
“Right now, the focus is more on trying to finish up what has taken place third quarter,” said principal Mark Porter.
Board member Debbi Readinger questioned if students can get belongings and materials that were left in the school. Lindau said he’s sure that students can do that at some point, but that the first priority was to get technology devices sent home and figure out online lessons.
Lindau also said, with staff having to get creative during the closure and trainings, as well as cleaning and maintenance taking place, that employees should document what goes on to answer any questions the public may have about what went on during the closure.
“Our students need us and our employees need us,” said Lindau.
Students in the district, who are 18 and under, won’t go hungry throughout the mandated closure, however, as Lake Holcombe will provide free meals delivered to homes or picked up at the kitchen door of the school.
“We’re able to provide shelf stable meals for breakfast and lunch,” said Lindau.
The board approved the food distribution plan and food was ordered, after getting the OK of a revised food plan through the USDA.
“I think that’s a great idea that we continue to do lunches for the kids,” said board president Brian Guthman.
Board member Anneleise Willmarth asked how the school plans to deliver the meals, to which Lindau says vans will be utilized. However, the delivery people must verify someone is in the house and Lindau says the residents should wave to delivery people from a window. The package will then be left outside the home.
“People, please keep your dogs tied up,” said Lindau. “We want our employees that are going to be doing this, to be very careful and very cautious.”
In addition, members approved an instructional delivery plan, where teachers are working with students to close out the third quarter if there is an assignment missing or a failing grade.
“I can tell you that our staff is already doing some amazing work behind the scenes that we’re starting to see some of,” said Lindau. “And you’re going to see more of in the near future.”
Lindau says brainstorming is going on behind the scenes, as staff communi- cates remotely.
“Again, a lot of good work is going to come of out this unfortunate situation,” said Lindau.
Currently, the staff is using Google Classroom, Facebook, and other online resources and learning tools available, in order to provide kids with what they need to still continue their education. Office staff have also contacted every home to see if internet connectivity was an option for the families.
Lindau says at the worst case scenario, someone could drive up into the parking lot to access the school WiFi.
“We know that because of the ruralness of northern Wisconsin, that we aren’t going to be able to provide 100 percent coverage for all students and staff,” he said. “We’re going to do everything that we can to…try and help families with internet service and devices.”
Porter says the school is looking into what seniors need in the way of credits and what they need to do to graduate.
“Right now, I think there are a lot of things that are unknowns, when it comes to moving forward,” said Porter.
In regard to getting in the required amount of hours for this year, members approved applying for a waiver process from the DPI, dealing with the hours of instruction.
“I really don’t think we have any choice in the matter,” said Guthman.
“Obviously, it’s been a wild and crazy week…where situations have been changing rapidly,” said Lindau, “and all of us have been needing to adapt to the rapid changes and the fluidity of the situation we’re dealing with nationally.”
Each year, school districts are required to meet a minimum number of hours, with kindergarten logging 437 hours; grades one through six recording 1,050 hours; and seven through 12th grade ending with 1,137 hours.
“In the past, of course, we only usually worried about that in terms of snow days… now we have coronavirus across the United States,” said Lindau. “Many of us in the circles of public education believe that the schools will remain closed through the remainder of the school year (June 30).”
Lindau said through the whole process of seeing schools closed and normal education disrupted, teachers should look on the time as an opportunity, with a lot of good work to come out of it.
“We have been, and we are, going to be forced to do some things that are uncomfortable and that we haven’t done before,” said Lindau. “But we are going to be better for it and we are going to be prepared for the future, heaven forbid anything like this happen again.”