Edgar OKs five days a week instruction
By Ross Pattermann
With face masks, sanitation stations and floor adhesives recommending students stand six feet apart, it’s going to be a very different school year for students at the Edgar school district.
But students from pre-K to twelfth grade will be back in classrooms for in-person instruction in 2020. This was the decision made by Edgar’s board of education during its Aug. 5 meeting after members approved a re-opening plan that will send students back to classrooms five days a week.
Edgar superintendent Dr. Cari Guden said the district will be taking precautions to secure the safety of students and staff, but reminded the board that there is no fool-proof plan against COVID- 19.
“We will be supporting and recommending social distancing as much as possible, but unfortunately in some of the classrooms, we just will not be able to guarantee it,” Guden said. “As we know kids are social, but that’s part of what the education process is about, so we’re going to do the best that we can.”
The decision to send students back to campus was informed by the results of an online survey the district conducted last month. The majority of parents who answered the survey were in support of in-person instruction. Only two percent supported a fully virtual fall semester.
Many of Edgar’s teaching staff were also in favor of in-person instruction. Out of 66 staff responses from online surveys, 41 percent responded that they were comfortable with in-person instruction with minimal concerns, as opposed to 17 percent who were not at all comfortable with a return to in-person teaching.
A virtual learning only option will be available for parents concerned about COVID-19. Thus far, 16 students have enrolled in the virtual option.
Guden said online classes will be streamed live via the BlueJeans video conferencing software system. This will ensure that students doing virtual learning will be able to give live feedback and be active in classroom participation.
Letters will be sent out requesting parents to indicate their preferred plan. Parents will have until Aug. 17 to make their decision, with the understanding that they are committing students to either option for at least the first quarter, which runs from Sept. 3 through Nov. 3.
Guden noted that even with the board approving students to come back to school five days a week, reopening plans will be subject to change.
“We have to be flexible. This has changed ten plus times since we started and it’s changed since last week,” Guden remarked. “What we plan today can change tomorrow. That’s just the mindset we need to have.”
The district discussed the measures that will be put in place to decrease infection, which include an isolation room for any student exhibiting symptoms, plexiglass windows in the office and limiting transitions at all exits and entrances.
Drinking fountains will be closed with the exception of bottle stations. There will also be cleaning and disinfecting supplies in all classrooms as well as sanitation stations at all exits and entrances.
Guden said there will be daily health checks to make sure students who are exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms can be isolated.
To further mitigate potential exposure to the coronavirus, the district will follow Gov. Evers’ recent state-wide mandate on face coverings. The district will require students to wear a face mask through September, and potentially longer.
“At this time masks will be required through the month of September and we will re-evaluate it after that,” Guden stated.
For elementary students, masks will be attached through the use of a lanyard.
All large gatherings, band and choir concerts, field trips and pep assembles will be placed on hold. As part of the reopening plan, the district will co-hort students from pre-K through eighth grade in order to prevent mingling and exposure between classes.
Lunch will also no longer be in the public cafeteria, but will taken in classrooms, with food likely delivered in the form of pre-plated meals and teachers supervising.
Guden acknowledged that co-horting by grade will not be possible at the high school level due to class schedules, but social distancing will be practiced as much as possible, with block scheduling implemented to cut down on traffic in the hallways.
The district also discussed the possibility of hiring a full-time substitute teacher to provide instruction wherever needed. Guden said that the district will providemore information on the reopening plan on the district’s website, and there will be a frequently asked questions tab.
In a follow-up phone interview, Guden said the district is committed to the five day a week plan, and will do everything it can to provide a quality education for students, but this comes with expectations on students and parents.
“We need their support,” Guden said. “A large part of the success of this plan is going to depend on them. We are asking for all parents to follow healthy guidelines . . . and encourage social distancing outside of the classroom.
“It’s going to be a very different year, and we’re going to need all hands on deck for this to work.”