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Details of school reopening set for 2020-21


Cadott School Board

A clearer look at what the start of the 2020-21 school year will look like came into view, as the Cadott School Board discussed elements of the school reopening plan, during a regular meeting Aug. 10.

Public comments from community members kicked off the meeting. Many of those present came to express their concerns over mandated masks in the school.

Community member Jon Bowe says he is worried younger children will touch their faces more with a mask on.

Brandon Brenny, parent of a second grader, also says he think kids will touch their faces more when wearing a mask. He also said he thinks masks could cause a loss of social interaction and stress.

“We do not know how much these masks actually help to reduce the spread of COVID,” said Brenny.

Brenny also quoted an article he handed out to the board, which said teachers will be unable to teach with their face, such as demonstrating pronunciation to younger students. He also says his daughter struggles with wearing a mask, because it makes her glasses fog up.

“How can that work all day long with her glasses being fogged up?” asked Brenny.

Dan Yeager, physical education teacher, was also concerned about youth wearing masks during physical exercise, over the state mandate. He says students around the world have died from wearing masks while running in P.E. classes, presumably from lack of oxygen.

“According to Gov. (Tony) Evers’ mask mandate, masks are required with a few exceptions,” said Yeager, adding when people are having trouble breathing or when it is dangerous to wear a mask.

Yeager says those exceptions are open to interpretation and says physical exertion with a mask on will make it harder for students to breath. He challenged everyone to run a few laps in the gym while masked.

“Now imagine you’re a five-year-old who is still learning about your body, and trying to understand what’s healthy and what’s dangerous,” said Yeager. “Young children have a hard time understanding what their body is telling them and if they’re told they must not remove their mask, they will most likely try to keep it on, despite the risks.”

He also noted exercise will make the mask damp, and make it even harder to breathe and create an unhealthy situation.

Allison Morrow, district parent, said she would like to keep her children home, but still learn through the Cadott School District, not the eSucceed consortium charter school. She says it would be easier to reintegrate students into the classroom, if parents chose to send their children back to in-person learning after the mask mandate is over. She says other programs, like eSucceed or home schooling, are a totally different program.

“I still want to be a part of this community and have my kids feel like they’re part of this community,” said Morrow.

Jenny Starck, district administrator, says the one difference between offering an online option for the fall vs. last spring, when there was a government directed closure, is the rules for schools are different. She says schools had more flexibility during the mandated shut-down.

“Some of it is just organizational logistics of we don’t know when they are coming,” said Starck of students who would come sometimes and be online other times.

Mark Schley, board member, suggested Morrow reach out to individual board members about offering real-time, online learning, if she would like.

Starck then gave an overview of the school reopening plans, which board members voted on elements of later in the evening. The plan is similar to the information Starck gave at a previous meeting, with in-person learning the first choice, followed by blended learning, with about half of the students attending at a time, and a final option where all students learn from home.

“Our goal is to stay open for students as long as possible,” said Starck.

Students in the classroom will also use more technology, so students and teachers can work together to troubleshoot issues with virtual learning, while learning is still in-person.

Students will also stay in class cohorts as much as possible. During busing, students will sit with their families and fill the bus back to front. Extra tables will be placed for additional spacing during lunch.

“They’re not going to be able to be six feet apart, but they aren’t going to be shoulder to shoulder,” said Starck.

Food service will also serve all food, instead of students scooping their own.

New to the district recommendations since the last meeting, is block scheduling for grades seven to 12. Starck says the change will reduce the number of transitions. She says the recommendation for block scheduling is only for this year.

Starck says, even during the mask mandate, they want school to be fun for students and build relationships with them.

She says there will also be more frequent bathroom cleanings, with their regular deep-clean of the classrooms each night.

“We’re required to follow the Wisconsin mask mandate, until it’s expired or discontinued,” said Starck.

She says she understands family concerns and the district will work with students, especially the youngest ones, as the district does with any school expectation.

“If they’re not used to wearing a mask, that’s going to be hard for them,” said Starck.

Starck says classes will spend some time outside for a “mask break.”

Following the end of the mask mandate, board members set the district policy on masks. Starck says the district recommends the board strongly recommend face covering post-mandate, which could be masks, shields or cloths.

Members approved two additional bus routes, to reduce the number of students on each route.

“Did you get a reported number on the percentage of kids busing, compared to previous years?” asked board member Becca Blanchette.

Starck says it is similar numbers to previous years, on the initial survey.

For phy ed classes, Starck says the district recommendation would be students do not shower afterward and reducing the number of students in a locker room at one time. The classes would take place outdoors when weather and activities permit.

Rod Tegels, board president, also asked if the no showering applies to athletics and weight room use in the mornings.

“I would say, at this time, I don’t know of any school allowing showers,” said Starck, adding some traveling teams for competitions aren’t allowed to change in the away locker rooms.

Starck also noted that special education students’ schedule and protocol will be determined on an individual basis.

Overall, Starck says the district’s goals are to minimize risk, provide social and emotional support, and continue to provide high-quality instruction.

Tegels asked that one format for online learning be chosen, to avoid confusion with students using multiple formats.

“So, my opinion on this, is we really need to figure out a platform district-wide,” said Tegels.

Starck says Google Classroom is the major format, but business education classes require other programming.

“So, for them it is Schoology,” said Starck.

Blanchette also asked about consistency in identifying students showing COVID symptoms, wondering what will happen if a student has a slight cough.

“Actually, public health has some training that they will do with all of our staff,” said Starck. “Just because somebody coughed or just because somebody sneezed, everybody is not going to freak out.”

The board approved the school reopening plan options for initial structure to provide education, with language to use one online platform, with the exception of during business education classes. The motion included the three tiers of instruction, as well as other aspects discussed, such as the block scheduling and additional cleaning.

The board also set the district’s stance on masks, after the state mandate expires. Blanchette asked if there would be an end date for the district policy. Starck said it would carry through until the board changes the parameters, unless an end date was set in the motion.

Schley says he thinks the decision to mask students should be up to parents and staff should also be left to decide for themselves.

Starck also asked what the board’s stance on masks for students who are showing COVID symptoms and waiting for pick-up are. Board member Alan Sonnentag said, since the students are secluded while waiting, he does not think it is necessary, especially if they have symptoms like a runny nose.

Members voted to make masks optional for staff and students, following the expiration of the state mandate.

For transportation, board member Brad Sonnentag asked if allowing parents to drop off earlier would eliminate the need for extra routes. Starck said it may, but would be a trade-off, because morning supervision would be needed.

Meagan Sonnentag, bus dispatcher, says parents she has called recently, still plan to use the bus. She says only two additional routes would be needed to get 40 or fewer students on each route.

Starck says the CARES Act could be used to cover some of the additional $94,080 needed for the two extra routes.

The board approved two extra routes for the school year, and making masks recommended, but not required, while riding the bus, after the mask mandate expires, with a divided vote.

Members also approved two additional recess supervisors for the 2020-21 school year. Starck says the supervisors are to watch class cohorts in different playground areas, to limit grade mixing.

“We do have CARES funding that we have received to help with COVID-related things,” said Starck.

Tegels asked about the cost for the extra supervisors. Starck estimated, assuming they are in session all of the days, about $10,000.

The motion for additional recess supervisors passed with six in favor (A. Sonnentag, Donna Albarado, Schley, Blanchette, Ced Boettcher, B. Sonnentag), and one opposed (Tegels).

The board also approved allowing staff to use any leave they have acquired for any COVID-related purpose, with four in favor (A. Sonnentag, Blanchette, Boettcher, Albarado), and three opposed (B. Sonnentag, Schley, Tegels). Tegels expressed concerns over the financial impact to the district.

Outside facility use was also voted on.

The district recommendation was not to allow outside groups to use the facilities until Oct. 30, and no use after 8 p.m.

Schley said he does not feel the district can pick and choose which outside groups can use the grounds, such as for Aug. 11 voting. Tegels also thought sports practices may go after 8 p.m.

Members voted in favor of allowing outside groups to use facilities, with no one allowed to use the facilities after 9 p.m.

The school reopening plan for athletics was also discussed. In the recommended motion for fall sports, junior high athletics would be suspended and intramural opportunities set up for interested students. Spectators would not be allowed for football or volleyball, and the teams would participate in two school or triangular events, instead of tournaments.

B. Sonnentag asked why junior high athletics would be suspended. Steve Mengel, athletic director, said the late start to the season eliminates a number of games, combined with other districts eliminating junior high sports for the fall, making it possible some junior high teams would only have one or two games.

“Then, it’s a matter of the choice, do we have it or not?” said Mengel.

Starck says the recommendation is also meant to limit travel.

Tegels says he thinks students should be allowed to participate at the level they can and says he thinks spectators should be able to watch.

“It is part of the reason we enjoy so much raising our kids, is to participate in their lives,” said Tegels.

Mengel says the Dunn-St. Croix and Cloverbelt conferences are really pushing for no spectators.

Members voted in favor of allowing spectators and junior high sports, as long as the WIAA does, and allowing showers after workouts and sporting events. The motion was also in favor of allowing for participation in tournaments.

Board members also voted in favor of an agreement adding kindergarten through eighth grade options to eSucceed.

Schley asked if eSuceed and coming to school five days a week are the only options. Starck says, right now, it is. A. Sonnentag asked if it is possible to go from eSucceed, back to the regular classroom. Starck says it is, but integrated classes through eSucceed can make it more difficult.

“I think there’s enough support, based on the community here, that we need to look for our own in-house, online program,” said Schley.

Members approved the kindergarten through eighth eSucceed agreement.

Schley also motioned that there is an in-house option for online school available for the board to review at the next committee meeting. Starck asked for clarification that Schley is looking for a real-time classroom option, which Schley confirmed he is.

Starck also reported on the yearly scorecard goals, during the meeting.

“Because of the school closure, some changes were made,” said Starck. “For example, we won’t receive a DPI (Department of Public Instruction) report card.”

The closure also impacted goals surrounding sports.

A strategic planning update was also given. The board met with a Howick Associates to discuss the timeline for renewing the plan, during a committee meeting. Starck says Howick Associates also recommends using a design team, composed of community members, to give input.

“The strategic plan is what drives the board,” said Schley, encouraging community members to get involved.

During the consent agenda, members authorized the superintendent to assign and hire teachers, support staff and substitutes, prior to the start, and during, the school year. Starck explained it is a yearly thing, to allow staff to start with the school year. She says the board will still see the hires and assignments at the September board meeting.

The board also approved the retirement of Deb Sedlacek, paraprofessional.

Upon careful consideration and due to recent concerns over the COVID-19 virus, I have decided to retire, wrote Sedlacek. The decision was not made lightly, as my years at Cadott Elementary as a paraprofessional have been exceptional ones.

They also approved the resignation of Susan Thiede, junior and senior high science.

I am truly grateful for the students, community members and wonderful co-workers that I have had to work with over the last two years, wrote Thiede in her resignation letter.

The resignation of fourth grade teacher Nathan Holtz, was also approved.

It has been a great pleasure to work in the Cadott School District over the past three years, wrote Holtz. The administration and community have been very supportive during my tenure with the school district. I also truly enjoyed the students and our many shared experiences.

Members also approved the hire of Jack Marchiavava, 0.5 math and 0.5 science; Corey Adams, 1.0 science; and Kayla Hefti, 1.0 special education.