Area school districts offer online instruction during closure

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

The state-mandated school closures have forced all districts in Wisconsin to adapt quickly to ever changing rules regarding the threat of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Twenty-one people, mostly teachers and teacher’s aides, voiced questions and concerns regarding the school closure during a special school board meeting at Prairie du Chien High School Monday night.

It was noted at the meeting and on the school’s website that Prairie du Chien will be conducting online classes for the length of the closure, which began on Monday and is expected to continue through April 5. Most districts around the state, including Seneca, River Ridge and Wauzeka-Steuben, will be conducting online classes as well.

Prairie du Chien interim District Administrator Bryce Bird said teachers will work from home or from school or both in order to present a virtual learning experience to the students. Teachers will communicate with students via email regarding classwork and testing.

“A lot has happened in just the past few days,” said Bird. “This process is constantly evolving.”

Bird said that students who live in the country with slow internet speed, or those who have no internet, can come to the front entrance of the schools to pick up their classroom assignments and drop off their homework. Students will not be allowed to roam through the schools.

Teacher aides will be put to work as much as possible, said Bird. Also, non-teaching staff will also be able to work. Custodial staff, for example, might get a head start on summer projects, said Bird. In addition, Bird said noon lunch and the next day breakfast will be dropped off together at various drop-off points in the district with some door-to-door drop-offs. The lunch program meals will be transported using school vans. Also, Prairie du Chien’s very successful Pick a Pack program will continue throughout the school closure and is seeking donations.

Bird said non-teaching staff (hourly employees) can also use any combination they choose of vacation days, sick days and unpaid leave during the closure.

The state has also ordered that spring sports be postponed until April 6. Bird said teams must have at least five days of practice upon the students returning to school, so the earliest spring sports could begin would be Saturday, April 11. Although, it is unclear when spring competition would actually begin. Some conferences have stated that they wouldn’t begin until April 20.

According to the district website, all practices, events, travel, and field trips taking place during the shutdown have been cancelled. Spring break remains the same and graduation remains the same.

At Seneca, District Administrator David Boland said teachers and the district have been planning to provide services for the students and families.

For the elementary students, the district developed packets that were emailed or sent to parents, or that could be picked up. The school also set up links, through Remind or Google Docs, so that teachers could deliver classroom messages to their students.

In grades 5-12, the district arranged for students to pick up their chromebooks, so that they have them at home and can use them to do school work that will be set up by their teachers. Teachers are setting up online lessons, and in some cases setting times aside so that they can chat online with their students when questions arise.

For all grade levels, libraries in both buildings were open on March 17 and March 18 so students could take as many books as needed to read.

For families without internet, the district is working to provide services for them during the school closure.

The Seneca District is preparing to provide sack lunches and breakfast for any students who could benefit from them. There will be pick-up areas throughout the district. This will be available to all students during this time period.

As with all school districts, there will be no extracurricular activities, practices, or other events during the time of the school outage.

The most updated information regarding this rapidly changing situation can be found on the school website: https://www.seneca.k12.wi.us/.

Essential personnel will be working at the school, if anyone needs to contact the district.

At River Ridge, free breakfast and lunch will be available to all families with children 18 and under. Depending on survey results, these meals may be delivered to the home or there will be a designated pick up point. Meals began on Wednesday, March 18.

“We found it to be important not only to do our best educationally for the students but to also make sure our students had access to meals that some families depend on,” said River Ridge District Administrator Clay Koenig.

All staff worked on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 to make sure the students had materials and understood what they will be doing for online/alternative/enrichment learning during the closure. This instructional time will count toward River Ridge’s annual expected minutes. This will limit or fulfill the amount of time that may be expected to be made up.

The library was open for check out of books on Tuesday, March 17. Students and parents were encouraged to checkout multiple books during the closure.

The District Office will be open daily from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays.

The Wauzeka-Steuben website said the closure affects all school programming, including before-and after-school activities, all athletic and extracurricular practices and competitions, and all weekend and evening events. The Wauzeka-Steuben fitness center, weight room and gyms are also closed until further notice.

District teachers and staff have been preparing e-learning plans for Wauzeka-Steuben students. The teachers will be providing more information. If anyone has any questions, they should contact the school principal.

Because of the state mandated school closures, school districts that want waivers from state instruction time requirements will get them, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. Districts will still needed to apply for the waiver, but the approval process will be expedited.

Students in kindergarten must annually get at least 437 hours of instruction. Students in first through sixth grade must get at least 1,050, and middle and high school students must receive at least 1,137.

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