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Cashton Schools plan for 5-day week while tasking teachers with online responsibilities

School district attempts to prepare for unprecedented year

 


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The administrative team presented a rough outline of a plan for preparing to open school in the fall to the school board at their last regular board meeting held on Monday, July 13.

District administrator, Ryan Alderson, noted that while attempting to plan for the upcoming school year, staff members are “trying to navigate unprecedented times with often changing information,” but are going ahead with planning for a September 1 start date for the 2020/2021 school year.

Alderson went over a mitigation plan for the upcoming year that addressed the following:

• Physical distancing of students

• Cloth face coverings

• Water bottles only (no drinking fountains)

• Maximizing fresh air intake into buildings

• Hand sanitizing stations in each classroom

• Explicit instructions on hygiene protocols

• Restricting visitor access

• Physical distancing at lunch and recess

• Symptom screening of students & staff

• Cleaning buses daily

• Increased cleaning of high touch areas and restrooms

• Removal of furniture and other items not easily disinfected

• Implementing tighter pick up and drop off times

• Plexiglass dividers in high traffic areas

Alderson noted that some of the above details are still being planned out and logistics are being worked on, but that all of those items need to be addressed and that the district is and has been in communication with area health departments about how best to safely maintain education in the current situation.

The Cashton School District is looking at continuing a five-day school week option due to the smaller population of the district, although many larger districts in the area are looking at an A/B type rotation of every other day to break up student populations and have less people in school buildings at a time.

The district did send out a survey to families asking about their intentions and thoughts for their children’s education this fall, and Alderson reported that 92 percent of the survey results (203 responses were received) noted that families intended to send their children to school in the fall. However, there were some respondents who reported feeling uncomfortable with sending students to public school at this time.

As a result, the district intends to serve both populations by offering in-person, regular teaching of classes, as well as online learning options (to hopefully include live streaming of classrooms) - which will be much more rigorous and involved (basically on par with the expectations and responsibilities of their classmates learning in-person) than the online learning experience that rounded out the 2019-2020 year.

Since teachers are being asked to teach in-person and virtually, the school day will feature a 45-minute early dismissal in an attempt to give teachers and staff additional time to prepare for the added duties and requirements that will come with this challenge. The in-service date that is typically held at the end of the year, will also be moved to August.

Teachers will also be offered optional professional development opportunities that will focus on online and virtual instruction methods. Alderson noted that some opportunities are available through CESA 4 in West Salem and that others might be developed locally. The district will be offering teachers $110 per day to take advantage of these professional development opportunities.

The school board approved the majority of these changes and preparations for the school year “with plans to improve” as time goes on.

Regarding the old business topics of graduation, co-curricular contact days and summer school, the board decided that indication from the Coulee COVID-19 Compass would determine whether the district would hold an in-person graduation service (if compass indicates High or Moderate risk level) or a drive-up version (if compass reports Severe risk level) and that July 22 at the latest would be the day an absolute decision one way or the other would need to be made.

Summer school in August will continue to feature online classes only, with the exception of the previously approved driver’s education class, which Alderson reported is functioning as hoped with social distancing protocols.

Co-curricular summer contact days will operate on a week-to-week basis, utilizing the Coulee COVID-19 Compass to determine if contact days can be held as scheduled (under High or Moderate Risk level) or if they will need to be paused for the week (under Severe Risk level). WIAA guidelines will also be utilized to direct coaches and athletes as to the recommended best safe practices to hold such contact days. Coaches have been working with district administration to come up with plans that will allow students to participate and be active in these contact days, while still maintaining safe social distancing practices.

“We’re trying to open some things on a small scale to some students on a limited basis in order to preserve some hope for fall activities,” said Alderson.

The board also approved the expansion of the school nurse’s contract, by adding up to nine days before the start of the school year at a rate of $370 per day.

Generally, the district nurse comes back in late August, but this contract expansion will allow for her to work up to three days per week starting in the first week of August.

Alderson detailed that the reason for this expansion is due to the extra support this position can provide in additional staff training, planning for student presentations, preparing rooms needed to support student and staff health needs and support for virus mitigation plans before school starts.

 

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